Less than 5 million dollars per launch, is the bet of the New Zealanders Rocket Lab which has unveiled the technical specifications of its Electron rocket. With a diameter of 1 m and a height of 20 m, it is theoretically capable of sending 100 kg in orbit, up to 500 km altitude. A 2-stage rocket much more mild and modest as an Ariane 5 or a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. A rocket that breaks new ground in various sectors with a goal: reduce drastically the costs of a launch.
Rocket Lab is the niche for small-lift launchers
Created in 2007 by New Zealand Peter Beck, Rocket Lab has just unveiled the largest rocket ever designed by the company. Funded by a background of venture capital Silicon Valley, Khosla Ventures, the company is positioned on the market commercial launchers. with this Electron, a rocket two-storey recognizable among all. It is entirely built in carbon fiber so that its structure does not weigh more than a Mini. The lightness is because the onboard, designed based on FPGA chips, computer weighs only 8.6 kg.
But it is probably in its engines that Rocket Lab brings the most innovation. The startup has designed a rocket engine of a new type, engine Rutherford, named after the physicist and chemist New Zealand Ernest Rutherford. All the main components of this engine will be made in 3D printing. He will have to deliver a thrust of 4,600 pounds 327 seconds. The first floor into account in atmospheric version 9, the second floor is considering one, in its version ‘space ‘. The total maximum power of the rocket reached 41,500 pounds of thrust.
Unlike the conventional rocket engines, these engines Rutherford use turbo-electric pumps powered by Lithium polymer batteries. What to do save a few percent boost compared with the turbo traditional pumps. Marketing of Rocket Lab States that we need as much fuel high-density Hybrid 90a to the Electron to go into space that kerosene for a Boeing 737 to make a flight San Francisco / Los Angeles.
The first flight of an Electron rocket is intended for 2015 while commercial flights must start as early as 2016. The startup provides already have commitments for the first 30 flights, knowing that Peter Beck ambition is to achieve 100 launches a year. An very optimistic ambition.