NORFOLK, Va. – A California-based startup has announced major projects to become small while it reaches space, satellites that invade the size of bread loaves in orbit from Virginia.
The commitment reflects the growing demand from companies and governments to monitor ships, harvests and meteorological conditions from space.
On Wednesday, Rocket Lab announced that it will build its springboard into the Mid-Atlantic regional space space on the eastern shore. It is located at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, where unmanned cargo missions have already been sent to the International Space Station.
Rocket Lab, which has recently built its first launch pad in New Zealand, is installing in Virginia in a period of unprecedented growth in the use of smaller and relatively inexpensive satellites.
Devices surround the earth for a few years before burning in the atmosphere. The SpaceWorks consulting firm in Atlanta predicted in January that up to 2,600 of these will have to be launched in orbit within the next five years.
The industry attracts venture capital investors, while companies in China and companies like Virgin have launched launch systems dedicated to smaller devices. More tens are under development.
Rocket Lab has sent two missiles so far, humorously defining those missions "It & # 39; s a test" and "Still testing". The second rocket successfully reached orbit in January.
The next Rocket Lab commercial mission, known as "It's Business Time", is scheduled for November. The launches from Virginia will start as early as summer 2019.
"We are not focused on the next flight, we are focused on the next 100 flights," said Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck, a New Zealander, at a press conference in Virginia.
Small satellites have often moved on rockets carrying larger satellites in orbit or with supplies to the space station. But other companies offer their own satellites small launches, providing greater control over their programs and the orbits to which they are delivered.
Headquartered in Huntington Beach, Calif., Rocket Lab plans to keep costs low by using lightweight, expendable rockets with 3D printed engines. It's a different plan than other space companies like Elon Musk's SpaceX, which uses larger rockets to carry bigger payloads.
Rocket Lab said its January load included a satellite for Earth imaging for Planet, a company that provides customers with information on everything from floods to deforestation.
Rocket Lab said the future launches will serve the Luxembourg-based company Kleos Space. The company says it can help law enforcement officials to detect illegal activities, such as trafficking in human beings or illegal fishing, by identifying maritime radio broadcasts.
NASA also has a contract with Rocket Lab to provide small satellites. But the most famous cargo of the company was perhaps the "star of humanity," a geodesic sphere designed to reflect the light of the sun on Earth.
Beck said he hoped he would remind people to look beyond their daily concerns and tackle bigger challenges like climate change. The "star of humanity" came out of orbit a couple of months after the January launch. The duration of his life was nine months.
Rocket Lab chose Virginia's state-owned spaceport for US finalists including the Space Space complex in Alaska and Cape Canaveral in Florida. Virginia officials said they could create 100 jobs while flights increase once a month.
Currently, there are four companies that have developed six vehicles dedicated to the launch of small satellites, and dozens of others are under development, according to Carlos Niederstrasser, an engineer with Northrop Grumman who follows the industry. His company also launches small satellites.
Other companies that enter this market are Virgin Orbit, a sister of the Virgin Galactic space company. He is testing a small rocket that is about to launch satellites into space from a 747 jet flying at 35,000 feet (10,000 meters). Chinese companies are also active and functioning.
Niederstrasser wrote in his 2018 industry survey that the market will not be able to support most of the new companies. But he said it is clear that the company's founders and investors believe that there will be room for at least some.
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