Rocket Lab is creeping closer to its goal of weekly launches with its 13th commercial mission, nicknamed "Pics Or It Didn't Happen," which, if all goes well, will take off only three weeks after the last one.
"Don't Stop Me Now" got to orbit successfully over the weekend, on June 13, and the next one is scheduled for July 3 — weather and other factors permitting.
"Rocket Lab has eliminated the small sat waiting room for orbit. We’ve focused heavily on shoring up our rapid launch capability in recent years and we’re proud to be putting that into practice for the small sat community with launches just days apart," said the company's founder and CEO, Peter Beck, in a press release.
"Pics" will carry three different payloads from "ride sharing" customers:
- Canon's CE-SAT-1B will provide orbital imagery and test the microsatellite platform for mass production
- Five of Planet's new SuperDove Earth observation satellites (Flock 4V) will join their hundreds of colleagues in orbit
- In-Space Missions's Faraday-1 cubesat will demonstrate viability of its platform for startups looking to get their software into orbit quickly
New Electron rockets are being built every 18 days, but that doesn't mean they can be launched that quickly, though there's definitely enough demand. A lot more goes into getting to orbit than just standing a rocket on end and hitting a big red button.
This three-week gap may be extra-short, but it must be noted that last weekend's launch was originally meant to take off months ago but was shelved due to the pandemic, then delayed again due to weather. So while this short turnaround is remarkable, it's not quite sustainable just yet. Still, Rocket Lab expects monthly missions into 2021 and the cadence should only increase as the company's new U.S.-based launch facility comes online.