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Electron Photon-LEO

Electron Photon-LEO (Capella 2) [Rocket Lab]

Electron is a small liquid fueled orbital launch vehicle, which is being developed by Rocket Lab, a US/New Zealand company. Both stages are RP-1 and LOX fueled.

Electron has a carbon composite structure of 1.2 m diameter and 20 m length.

The powerplant of Electron is Rocket Lab's Rutherford engine using LOX/RP-1 as fuels. Rutherford adopts an new electric propulsion cycle, using electric motors to drive its pumps, and is the first oxygen/hydrocarbon engine to use 3D printing for all primary components. Electron’s first stage is powered by multiple Rutherford engines with a total peak thrust of 146.6 kN. Electron’s second stage is powered by a Rutherford Vacuum Engine which is tailored to provide improved performance in vacuum conditions. An additional kick stage powered by Rocket Lab's Curie engine running on an unspecified “green” monopropellant is availlable for increased flexibility of the missions.

To avoid complications with payload processing a containerized approach will be used, where customers encapsulate their satellites in payload fairings provided by the company, which can be stored and easily attached to the rocket shortly before launch.

Ecliptic Enterprises will offer hosted payloads on the kick stage, which will remain attached to the kick stage.

Rocket Lab had originally selected Birdling's Flat (Kaitorete Spit), Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand as a launch site. It is located 44 km from Christchurch. It is unclear if this site remains a future option. Due to legal issues, another launch site at Onenui Station on the Mahia peninsula on the North Island was selected for the maiden flights. In October 2018, Rocket Lab selected Wallops Island as the launch pad for the USA.

The Electron vehicle carries up to 225 kg payloads to low earth orbit. The payload for a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit is 100 kg.

The first Electron launch was planned for late 2016, but has been delayed for early 2017, with commercial operations scheduled to begin later in 2017. The vehicle will have a cost of $4.9 M. The first launch took place in May 2017, but failed to reach orbit. The second vehicle was successfully launched in January 2018.

→ complete list of all Electron launches.

Version Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3
Electron Photon-LEO Stage 1 / 9 × Rutherford Stage 2 / Rutherford-Vacuum Photon / Curie
Performance (kg) LEO LPEO SSO GTO GEO MolO IP
Electron Photon-LEO 100 - - - -
No.  TypNo Type                   Date            LS             Payload 

14    1    Electron Photon-LEO    31.08.2020      OnS LC-1A      Capella 2 / First Light
19    2    Electron Photon-LEO    22.03.2021      OnS LC-1A      BlackSky 7 / Centauri 3 / Myriota 7 / RAAF-M2 A / RAAF-M2 B / Gunsmoke-J 3 / Veery RL-1 / Pathstone


 x    x    Electron Photon-LEO    xx.xx.2024      OnS LC-1 ?     LOXSAT 1

Launch sites:

OnS = Onenui Station, Mahia, Wairoa, North Island, New Zealand New Zealand
WI  = Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), Wallops Island, Virginia, USA USA


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