Enlarge / The "Make It Rain" mission launches in June 2019 from Rocket Lab's spaceport in New Zealand. (credit: Rocket Lab)
Rocket Lab has successfully begun to transform into an operational launch company this year, with five successful Electron missions in 2019 and the promise of a couple more before the year ends. In accomplishing this, it has become the world's first private company to develop a low-cost rocket for small satellites.
Moreover, it continues to set performance milestones. With its "As the Crow Flies" mission earlier this month, Rocket Lab set a new altitude record for the company by sending a 20kg payload to a 1,200km circular orbit. But now, the US-based company that launches primarily from New Zealand has set its sights much, much higher.
On Monday, Rocket Lab announced that with its "Photon" upper stage it will be able to send small payloads all the way to lunar orbit. “Small satellites will play a crucial role in science and exploration, as well as providing communications and navigation infrastructure to support returning humans to the Moon," Peter Beck, the company's chief executive, said in a news release. "They play a vital role as pathfinders to retire risk and lay down infrastructure for future missions."
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