Not long ago, orbital launches were something that took years of planning and months of testing and careful preparation. But with Rocket Lab’s new program, customers can show up at the launch site with their payload in the trunk and have it in orbit 24 hours later. Premium rates for the next day shall apply of course.
The Responsive Space program is actually a bit more formal than that, but the idea of going from zero to launch in a day or less is pretty impressive.
“Since day one, responsive launch capability has been built into Electron’s design and our launch sites, and we’ve made strategic investments in vertical spacecraft manufacturing to make this happen,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO. And as the release states, “From arrival at the launch site, payload integration, encapsulation and launch can be completed in as little as 24 hours.”
Your company must, of course, be part of the program and work with Rocket Lab in advance on the exact specs, trajectory and other variables needed for a successful launch. So while you can’t just come to the launch complex with a few million dollars and a satellite, you can give them all the pertinent details and say you might show up sometime in the next six months.
While the company has made some very rapid turnarounds in the past and launched at quite short notice for clients like the National Reconnaissance Office, it has not yet achieved this ultra-rapid turnaround, but the company believes it is possible. Indeed, as Beck points out, this has been one of the capabilities it has been striving for from the very beginning. And a company representative told me that customers have requested this kind of ultra-short turnaround time on several occasions.
Of course, the payload is also unlikely to arrive on the back of a pickup — Rocket Lab emphasizes its ability to build, maintain, and otherwise operate or prepare satellites and support systems in its own facilities. It’s more likely that if you’re part of this new program, your satellite would be waiting in a clean room somewhere in New Zealand (or as of December, Virginia) while you iron out the latest code or struggle with red tape.
Then when you have everything clear, call Peter and he will put your bird into orbit before the sun sets tomorrow. On the way down, they might even make it to the first leg.