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Rocket Lab launches NASA's first dedicated cubesat mission

It's Rocket Lab's third orbital flight for the year.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
December 16, 2018
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Trevor Mahlmann/Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab isn't quite done establishing firsts. The company has successfully launched ElaNa-19 (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites), NASA's first cubesat mission to get a dedicated ride to space. Until now, the agency's tiny satellites have piggybacked on missions carrying larger payloads. It's also the first Venture Class Launch Services mission for the company, and the first time Rocket Lab has conducted two launches that are relatively close together. Its initial commercial flight, "It's Business Time," lifted off five weeks ago.

This represents Rocket Lab's third (and last) orbital flight of 2018, although it will get a quick start to the new year with another Electron rocket "on the pad" in January 2019.

You can likely expect this kind of mission frequency in the future. Rocket Lab aims to corner the market for small satellite deployments, and that means offering as many launch dates as possible at costs that are typically more affordable than hitching a ride on a larger vessel. If it achieves this, it could encourage greater use of cubesats and make space more accessible to companies and scientists alike.

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