Auto blast-off all down to preparation

Rocket Lab’s first blast-off later this year.

Rocket Lab’s first blast-off later this year.

RANGE FINDER: Rocket Lab range control lead Shaun D'Mello will be the man responsible for setting up the first automated rocket flight from the Magia peninsula. Picture by Liam Clayton

FOLLOWING the official opening of the world’s first private orbital launch range at Onenui Station yesterday, Auckland-based aerospace company Rocket Lab will now keep a rotating team of staff onsite in the build up to the complex’s first test launch later this year.

Mission Control will be conducted from the Rocket Lab Auckland base but responsibility for setting up the launch will fall to Rocket Lab range control lead Shaun D’Mello.

Meticulous preparations would be needed to prepare rockets for launch, he said.

“I lead all the launch engineering and launch operations — the building and construction of the rocket and the launch automation control.

“We’re responsible as a group for all the pre-launch operations. We fill the rocket, we condition it, we do the final assembly and then we erect it before flight.

“I was based in Auckland but I’m pretty much here full-time now.”

Mr D’Mello said the rocket would come to the Onenui site about 21 days before take-off.

“We will do a lot of check-outs in the launch complex hangar and then on launch day. There will be about eight hours of pre-flight preparations before it flies.”

There would be no “red button” to press for blast-off, he said.

“There is a mission computer on board and all we do is prepare the rocket up to the point where the flight computer takes over. Once the flight computer takes over it’s all in the flight computer.”

It will take the 1 million horsepower Electron Rocket, powered by a 3D-printed Rutherford engine, just eight minutes to reach orbit from take-off.

“It tops out at about 27,000kmh.”

Satellites launched from the site will house imaging and communications technologies used to provide services including optimised crop monitoring, improved weather reporting, internet from space, natural disaster prediction, up-to-date maritime data, and search and rescue services.

Customers already signed up to fly payloads from the Rocket Lab site include NASA and Moon Express.

FOLLOWING the official opening of the world’s first private orbital launch range at Onenui Station yesterday, Auckland-based aerospace company Rocket Lab will now keep a rotating team of staff onsite in the build up to the complex’s first test launch later this year.

Mission Control will be conducted from the Rocket Lab Auckland base but responsibility for setting up the launch will fall to Rocket Lab range control lead Shaun D’Mello.

Meticulous preparations would be needed to prepare rockets for launch, he said.

“I lead all the launch engineering and launch operations — the building and construction of the rocket and the launch automation control.

“We’re responsible as a group for all the pre-launch operations. We fill the rocket, we condition it, we do the final assembly and then we erect it before flight.

“I was based in Auckland but I’m pretty much here full-time now.”

Mr D’Mello said the rocket would come to the Onenui site about 21 days before take-off.

“We will do a lot of check-outs in the launch complex hangar and then on launch day. There will be about eight hours of pre-flight preparations before it flies.”

There would be no “red button” to press for blast-off, he said.

“There is a mission computer on board and all we do is prepare the rocket up to the point where the flight computer takes over. Once the flight computer takes over it’s all in the flight computer.”

It will take the 1 million horsepower Electron Rocket, powered by a 3D-printed Rutherford engine, just eight minutes to reach orbit from take-off.

“It tops out at about 27,000kmh.”

Satellites launched from the site will house imaging and communications technologies used to provide services including optimised crop monitoring, improved weather reporting, internet from space, natural disaster prediction, up-to-date maritime data, and search and rescue services.

Customers already signed up to fly payloads from the Rocket Lab site include NASA and Moon Express.

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