Watch: Rocket Lab launches imaging satellites for Canon, Planet

Rocket Lab is counting down to its 15th mission, and its fifth this year.

One of the Kiwi-American company’s Electron rockets is due to take off from Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, with the launch window opening today at 11.02am NZT.

A livestream will begin above, around 20 minutes before launch.

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“In Focus” will carry commercial Earth-imaging satellites for US company Planet and Japan’s Canon.

It will launch nine “SuperDove” cubesats for Planet, which will join the company’s constellation of Earth-observation satellites already on orbit providing medium-resolution global coverage. Plus theCE-SAT-IIB, a technical demonstration microsatellite developed by Canon – which has a middle-size telescope equipped with an ultra-high sensitivity camera to take night images of the Earth.

It comes after Rocket Lab co-founder and CEO Peter Beck has been tweeting pics taken by the inhouse satellite launched last month to showcase his company’s Photon platform.

Co-founder and CEO Peter Beck – who recently chipped in to a new NZ venture capital fund aimed at finding next Rocket Lab and other “deep tech” stars has been musing about his company’s past and future as he waits for the launch.

Rocket Lab, whose shareholders include Lockheed Martin, a clutch of Silicon Valley VCs, ACC, Sir Stephen Tindall and Beck himself, now has a private equity valuation in the vicinity of $2 billion.

After one Twitter user mused: “It [email protected] is the best baseline so far to measure success in the small-sat launch market. Do we know what their development costs were or what their profit margin is?”,

Beck replied: “Less than $100m on development and a total of $180m to date including building 3 launch pads, 4 acres of production facilities, 2 mission controls, 14 flights and accounting for my mission to Venus.”

The Rocket Lab boss has been musing about the possibility of a Rocket Lab mission to the yellow planet, following the discovery of traces of phosphine in its atmosphere – an indicator of life. As a New York Times headline put it, “The search for life on Venus could start with Rocket Lab”.

That’s still on the drawing board, but his company does have its first launch from US soil coming up as it gears toward its support role for Nasa’s return to the moon.

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