With thoughts of Electron rocket re-use firmly in mind, Rocket Lab successfully launched their “Running Out of Fingers” mission on December 6 at 3:19 a.m., EST, from the firm’s Mahia Peninsula launch site in New Zealand.
Six smallsats manufactured by Alba Orbital were passengers on this tenth expulsion of the Electron launch vehicle from Earth’s gravitational forces.
Of interest to the smallsat’s creators are the smallsat’s data collection regarding comms between satellites, the viability of thermal insulation in space as well as studying electromagnetic leakage from Earth.
Also a passenger scheduled for orbit ejection aboard the Electron was the 75 kg. ALE-2 satellite from, appropriately enough, the ALE company based in Japan. The goal of this smallsat is to create a five color shooting star panorama in the sky during the upcoming Tokyo Olympics in 2020 — this mission is known as the Sky Canvas Project.
Rocket Lab continues to expand their operations with a new launch site to be commissioned in the U.S. If, and when, rocket reusability is viable, the firm plans to increase the frequency of their launches to a weekly schedule. There were several sensors aboard the Electron to gather re-entry data to continue the formulation of rocket re-use in the not-too-distant future.