Author Topic: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher  (Read 300029 times)

Offline HMXHMX

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RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« on: 07/29/2014 04:55 AM »
Backed by Khosla Ventures of Silicon Valley, but located in New Zealand (with a US office in LA).

http://www.rocketlabusa.com

Press release:

http://www.rocketlabusa.com/rocket-lab-usa-poised-to-change-the-space-industry/

Online QuantumG

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Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #1 on: 07/29/2014 05:16 AM »
Quote
Rocket Lab was the first private company to reach space in the southern hemisphere in 2009 with its Atea 1 suborbital sounding rocket. Following this success the company won contracts with aerospace giants Lockheed Martin, DARPA and Aeroject Rocket-dyne.

This tickled my memory. Various people were saying at the time (2009) that they had zero evidence that it reached space. I defending them by saying that they didn't claim it did, merely that it was about the right size to. As far as I'm aware they never recovered anything or got any data back from the vehicle.

Then there was a 2010 article claiming they had a research grant from the US Office of Naval Research, and they also make the 100 km claim for Atea 1. The project page for their Viscous Liquid Monopropellant also claims DARPA funding, and there's a 2012 video of a test flight.

So there's certainly a capability there, but it's pretty far away from orbit, I'd say. Good luck to 'em.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #2 on: 07/29/2014 06:45 AM »
Cool a local launch provider. Could find out where they launch but their Electron LV is a mini me F9. 1x 2nd stage engine and 9x 1st stage engines. If it works for SpaceX why not. No mention of reusability but with this configuration who knows.

Offline gosnold

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Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #3 on: 07/29/2014 11:25 AM »
The target payload is 110kg. Assuming that's for expendable mode, it will be very close to 0 (most likely negative) in a reusable mode.

Online QuantumG

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Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #4 on: 07/29/2014 11:47 AM »
The word "reusable" doesn't appear anywhere on the Rocketlab website.

Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #5 on: 07/29/2014 01:48 PM »
The web page talks about being innovative, but doesn't mention anything innovative about their approach.  It seems to me they're somewhere behind Firefly and ahead of ARCA on the plausibility scale for groups trying to make it in the ultra-light-weight orbital launch business.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #6 on: 07/29/2014 03:28 PM »
They currently have customers/orders for 30 launches ($150m) a tested engine and LV in production if the web photos are anything to go by. This is far from a paper rocket or startup with a webpage.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #7 on: 07/29/2014 04:28 PM »
They currently have customers/orders for 30 launches ($150m) a tested engine and LV in production if the web photos are anything to go by. This is far from a paper rocket or startup with a webpage.

They used the word "commitment" with respect to those 30 launches.  It's far from clear how firm that commitment is.  Also, launch companies often give steep discounts to early customers, so I don't think we can take $150 million as a given.  No list of customers was given.  It could be that all 30 launch commitments are from a start-up that hopes to launch a fleet of small satellites but does not yet itself have the funding to do so.

It's also not clear if they've tested or even designed the engine they plan to use for their orbital launch vehicle.  They've launched sounding rockets, which is something, but it's not clear that they won't have to develop a whole new engine for their planned orbital launch vehicle.

It's also not clear what their development schedule is, how much funding they think they need to reach operational status, and how much funding they currently have.

Offline Noack78

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Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #8 on: 07/29/2014 05:17 PM »
It's also not clear if they've tested or even designed the engine they plan to use for their orbital launch vehicle.  They've launched sounding rockets, which is something, but it's not clear that they won't have to develop a whole new engine for their planned orbital launch vehicle.

The engine was first test fired on December 2013. From their website:

Quote
The new engine, named Rutherford after the famous New Zealand scientist Ernest Rutherford, is a Lox/Kerosene regenerative cooled pump fed engine that is intended to be the future workhorse for the our orbital launcher program.  The first test fires demonstrated stable performance and began the characterization phase of the engine program. A high rate of testing is underway with an average of one test fire every two days.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #9 on: 07/29/2014 05:22 PM »
The engine was first test fired on December 2013.

Ah, thanks, I missed that.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #10 on: 07/29/2014 05:29 PM »
The engine was tested fired in Dec 13. If the last 7 months of development was not going to plan I'd doubt we would have seen today's press release that started this thread.

http://www.rocketlabusa.com/updates/


Online QuantumG

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Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #11 on: 07/29/2014 09:59 PM »
I wouldn't be surprised if their first launch attempt slipped into 2016.

I would be very surprised if their first launch attempt reached orbit.

It's great that they're trying.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline hop

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Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #12 on: 07/30/2014 02:55 AM »
a price is given on the web page 5 million.
I wonder if the $5 million / launch number assumes the 100 launches / year item just below it...

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #13 on: 07/30/2014 03:32 AM »
One radical use I thought of for Electron 1st stage is as test vehicle for recovery development . Given it is a mini F9,  with some modifications it may be able to be recovered.
At a few million a piece it makes a cheap test bed for a large LV company to prove out the recovery process. Without a 2nd stage and payload it should have the enough  performance to do a boost back and landing.


Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #14 on: 07/30/2014 03:34 AM »
Is the KeroLox engine using a turbo pump? Not too much info on the web site.

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #15 on: 07/30/2014 03:41 AM »
One radical use I thought of for Electron 1st stage is as test vehicle for recovery development . Given it is a mini F9,  with some modifications it may be able to be recovered.
At a few million a piece it makes a cheap test bed for a large LV company to prove out the recovery process. Without a 2nd stage and payload it should have the enough  performance to do a boost back and landing.

Don't think that idea is practical. As it is, the nominal maximum payload is only 100 kg. Reserving launch mass for recovery propellants and/or recovery mechanisms will result in very little payload.

Online QuantumG

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Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #16 on: 07/30/2014 03:44 AM »
Is the KeroLox engine using a turbo pump? Not too much info on the web site.

It certainly looks like one.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #17 on: 07/30/2014 03:45 AM »
You missed to point Zed, read it again.

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #18 on: 07/30/2014 04:13 AM »
One radical use I thought of for Electron 1st stage is as test vehicle for recovery development . Given it is a mini F9,  with some modifications it may be able to be recovered.
At a few million a piece it makes a cheap test bed for a large LV company to prove out the recovery process. Without a 2nd stage and payload it should have the enough  performance to do a boost back and landing.

Don't think that idea is practical. As it is, the nominal maximum payload is only 100 kg. Reserving launch mass for recovery propellants and/or recovery mechanisms will result in very little payload.
You missed to point Zed, read it again.
I see your point. But it is still not practical. You will eventually need a full scale test vehicle. Think it is easier to adopt a full size large vehicle for trials then to extrapolate what a large vehicle will do from a sub-scale vehicle's performance IMO.


Offline Davidthefat

Re: RocketLab Electron Smallsat Launcher
« Reply #19 on: 07/30/2014 08:15 AM »
Yea... I am not convinced. Why did they opt to gimbal their engines? Because SpaceX does it? My hunch tells me that they can save a lot of weight by opting to do vector control with differential throttling instead. Get rid of the hydraulic system and piping. At least just for the first stage.

The picture clearly shows a turbopump exhaust on each engine. Why not save that weight and do what the Russians do? Surely they don't need a turbopump for each chamber. Yea, they are touting the engine out capability.

http://www.rocketlabusa.com/about-us/propulsion/rutherford/

Quote
A single Rutherford engine pumps rocket-grade kerosene and liquid oxygen from the low pressure tanks into the combustion chamber producing 13.3 kilonewtons of thrust at lift-off.  The regeneratively cooled engine passes the kerosene through channels in the chamber walls, allowing Rutherford to run at temperatures far beyond its melting point and at a significantly higher efficiency.
Electronís propulsion workhorse is the Rutherford rocket engine. Rutherford is the embodiment of power and efficiency; it is the key driver behind Rocket Labís ability to provide high-frequency, low-cost launches.
 
Electron uses two variants of the Rutherford engine, a sea level and a vacuum engine. The vacuum variant differs only in nozzle shape, which is tailored to suit the vacuum conditions outside Earthís atmosphere. The duplicate engine design for both stages makes Electron highly optimized for mass production.
With nine Rutherford engines on the first stage, Electron can sustain a complete engine loss before launch and still complete its mission, making it one of few launch vehicles with such capability.
The engine is named after the famous New Zealand born physicist Ernest Rutherford.
« Last Edit: 07/30/2014 08:18 AM by Davidthefat »

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