The Strategist

First-ever 3D-printed rocket launched in New Zealand

05/26/2017 - 14:32

American company Rocket Lab launched Electron, a light-weight rocket. This launch can be called outstanding thanks to several reasons - Electron is the first 3D-printed rocket, it’s launch is premiere for New Zealand, and it’s been held at a private spaceport. The rocket could not be put into orbit, but Rocket Lab is not giving up, and is going to conduct several more missile launches this year. 3D-printed parts can significantly reduce the cost of production of missiles - launch of Electron costs $ 5 million, which is cheaper than the usual cost of missiles.

Robotpig via youtube
Robotpig via youtube
On Thursday, American company Rocket Lab for the first time launched Electron carrier rocket manufactured using a 3D printer. Electron belongs to the class of ultra light rockets. Its length is 17 m, diameter - 1.2 m; it can deliver to orbit loads of up to 225 kg. "It was a fantastic flight, and we are really pleased with the rocket’s performance", Peter Beck, founder of Rocket Lab, said after the launch. The rocket did not reach the orbit, as its creators had hoped. Mr. Beck says in the coming weeks his team will find out why the missile could not reach the set altitude. Initially Electron was scheduled to launch on May 22, but the event has been postponed several times due to weather conditions. The second missile has already been built, and will be launched in several months.

The rocket was launched from a private launch pad owned by Rocket Lab and located on the Mahia peninsula in New Zealand. It is the world's first launch of a rocket from a private ground designed to launch ultra-light missiles into low orbit. Last week, Rocket Lab received permission for three test launches. The company hopes that this year it will hold several commercial flights, transferring to a one rocket per week schedule later.

Electron rocket is made of carbon fiber and uses an electric motor. 3D printers significantly reduce the cost of production. As previously reported by Rocket Lab, the launch of Electron costs $ 5 million, and it’s not the first example of cost-cutting in the spacecraft industry. So, SpaceX company, which belongs to Elon Musk, is testing its Falcon 9 carrier rocket, which, unlike conventional missiles, can be used several times.

The launch of Electron was a major success for New Zealand: this is the first launch from its territory, the country has never had its own space program. According to the Minister of Economic Development of New Zealand, Simon Bridges, "today's successful launch is an important milestone in the development of the space industry in New Zealand". According to him, New Zealand has now become one of 11 countries that can launch satellites from their territory, and "the potential benefits for the country's economy from this are very significant."