Rocket Lab has made a name for itself in the field of small satellite launches because it wants to take over the almighty SpaceX, among other things.
The Los Angeles-based company has completed its 12th commercial mission with its electron rocket in the past few days to increase its launch frequency in the coming months.
Just like that, we've got a dozen starts! Learn more about number 13 tomorrow. Pic.twitter.com/PE9myNP7YA
– Rocket Lab (@RocketLab), June 15, 2020
In fact, New Zealand-born Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck has just announced plans for the 13th launch of the private space company, which is scheduled for July 3 or shortly thereafter.
In the mission titled "Pictures or It Didn't Happen" the electron will take off from the Rocket Lab launch site on the New Zealand Mahia Peninsula. The back-to-back missions will be Rocket Lab's fastest turnaround between trips so far.
Pics Or It Didn't Happen will put seven small satellites into orbit for a number of customers, including space customers Canon Electronics and planetary and in-space missions.
Canon Electronics' CE-SAT-IB satellite is designed to demonstrate the company's Earth imaging technology with high-resolution and wide-angle cameras, while testing the microsatellite for possible mass production.
The ridesharing payload will also include five SuperDove satellites built by Planet from San Francisco, the operator of the world's largest constellation of Earth observation satellites. Interestingly, Planet recently took a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to deploy three of its SkySat satellites in a mission that marked the first outing for SpaceX's Smallsat rideshare program.
The last satellite on board the Electron comes from the British company In-Space Missions. The Faraday-1 6U CubeSat offers startups, institutions and large research and development groups an inexpensive route to orbit. The goal is to provide a demonstration of In-Space's software-defined payload that will allow for future uploadable payload functions.
Beck said that the rapid launch of missions will help demonstrate Rocket Lab's ability to provide small, satellite customers with dedicated and responsive space access.
Rocket Lab wants to offer its customers launches every month and is working to build a new Electron rocket every 18 days to achieve this goal. It also works on a missile recovery system that uses a helicopter to pluck a falling booster from the sky when it falls back to Earth after launch (you can see a test run in the video above). By creating a reusable missile system, the company could further reduce the cost of space transportation and prepare for new launches faster.
Other upcoming missions from the Rocket Lab include one for the U.S. Space Force later this year and a trip to the moon for NASA in 2021, using a Cubesat to explore the lunar orbit that will be occupied by the gateway Space station on which astronauts could orbit the moon by 2025.