Rocket Lab secretly launched its own in-house made satellite to space on September 3. The unannounced event would be the first time the space tech company would launch a satellite to space. Without fanfare or any sort of prior warning, the company successfully launched the satellite before CEO Peter Beck told the world what they had just achieved.
Launched in New Zealand, the satellite which was named First Light launched aboard the company’s Electron rocket and cylindrical Photon spacecraft. According to The Verge, after the satellite left the Electron rocket’s kick stage into space, a component of the Electron changed into another satellite which now orbits the Earth. Following a command from Rocket Lab, the satellite is now operative and capable of sending signals back to Earth.
The company’s overall aim with launching satellites into space is to make it easier for commercial customers to do the same via its affordable Electron kick stage. Rocket Lab wants customers to focus on space experiments and commercial revenues instead of bothering themselves with designing rockets for space missions.
“We’re really trying to reduce the barrier here to get innovation and your ideas on-orbit quickly,” Beck said. “You can use not only a proven launch vehicle but a proven spacecraft platform, so you’re not taking any development time or risk in getting your idea into orbit.”
The company is toying with the idea of sending a Photon spacecraft to Venus in 2023 and also exploring ways to win NASA contracts for missions to the moon. But the company aims to have conducted several test launches before that stage. However, after First Light is stationed in orbit, it took a splendid image of itself and the Earth beneath it and Rocket Lab is working on executing more demonstrations with the satellite to win potential customers.
When reporters asked why Rocket Lab launched the satellite in secret without prior announcements, Beck said “I kind of like to just do stuff, and make sure it’s all good and it works before announcing it.” In 2018, the company also secretly launched a satellite that gives off a bright light in the night sky with the aim to help people position themselves correctly wherever they may be in the night.
But the stunt caught the wrong attention and astronomers raised a ruckus by contending that the bright satellite provides an unnatural light that could spoil long exposure photos of the universe. Named Humanity Star, the satellite crashed back to Earth after three months in space. Beck expressed hopes that the launch of First Light would not generate any unfavorable controversies.