US small satellite launch company Rocket Lab is expanding its production to include the in-house designed and built Photon satellite platform.
Whereas the company previously concentrated on launch services, having launched 25 satellites so far, Rocket Lab now delivers an integrated spacecraft build and launch service.
The “end-to-end mission solution” enables small satellite customers to focus on delivering their service from orbit and generating revenue, rather than building their own satellite hardware, says the company.
Rocket Lab’s founder and CEO, Peter Beck, says Photon was designed to be an integrated part of the Rocket Lab mission experience from the very inception of the Electron launch vehicle program.
Beck says: “Small satellite operators want to focus on providing data or services from space, but building satellite hardware is a significant barrier to achieving this.
“The time, resources and expertise required to build hardware can draw small satellite operators away from their core purpose, delaying their path to orbit and revenue.
“As the turn-key solution for complete small satellite missions, Rocket Lab brings space within easy reach. We enable our customers to focus on their payload and mission – we look after the rest.”
With an available payload mass of up to 170 kg, Photon is designed for a range of Low Earth Orbit missions, including technology demonstrations, risk reduction pathfinders, constellations and hosted payloads.
Developed as a configurable platform, Photon is ideal for existing and emerging applications such as communications, remote sensing, and internet of things.
Rocket Lab says Photon is a “highly-advanced evolution” of the Electron launch vehicle’s Kick Stage, which has been successfully installed on four orbital Electron missions.
Operating a high-powered iteration of the 3D printed Curie propulsion system, Photon can support missions with an orbital life span of up to five years.
Photon also includes an S-band communication system, an attitude control system, and a robust avionics suite.
To meet the growing demand for tailored small spacecraft with dependable fast delivery, Rocket Lab has drawn on its experience in rapidly scaling production with Electron launch vehicle program.
Manufactured at Rocket Lab’s Huntington Beach, California headquarters, a Photon spacecraft can be launched on Electron “in as little as four months from order to orbit”.
The first operational Photon will be launched from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in Q4 2019, with customer missions in active planning for 2020.