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Rocket Lab’s second test flight in a few weeks will carry four orbital satellites

  • Space company Rocket Lab announces plans for the second of three test flights.
  • Final vehicle tests begin next month, the New Zealand-based company says. The launch window will open a few weeks after completion of the tests, it says.
  • In its inaugural launch on May 25, Rocket Lab's Electron vehicle failed to reach orbit.
Rocket Lab's Electron vehicle inaugural test flight from the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand on May 25, 2017.
Rocket Lab
Rocket Lab's Electron vehicle inaugural test flight from the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand on May 25, 2017.

Space company Rocket Lab announced plans Tuesday for the second of three test flights.

Final vehicle tests begin next month, the New Zealand-based company said. The window for the launch from Rocket Lab's complex on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula will open a few weeks after completion of the tests, it said.

The mission involves deploying four small satellites from private companies Planet Labs and Spire.

In its inaugural launch on May 25, Rocket Lab's Electron vehicle failed to reach orbit. CEO Peter Beck said problems involving "third-party error" have been fixed and no major change was made to Electron's hardware.

"We're eager to test the next crucial step — payload deployment," Beck said in a statement.

This would be the first test of its orbital deployment systems, which Beck called "a significant milestone for the Electron program."

Planet Labs senior director Mike Safyan said his company was excited "to quite literally be riding the leading edge." Spire CEO Peter Platzer called the rapid preparations key to the success of his company and Rocket Lab.

Planet Lab's two Dove satellites will be used for Earth imagining, and Spire's Lemur-2 satellites are intended for mapping weather and tracking ships.

Rocket Lab's second test comes at a critical time. It has contracted to launch five Electron rockets for lunar mining company Moon Express as early as next spring.