Rocket Lab recently made a successful return to flight and launched a client satellite from an Electron Rocket, but that’s not all that happened in the mission. The company also secretly launched its own satellite, called Photon, which could one day fly ambitious missions into deep space.
The Photon is based on Rocket Lab’s “Kick Stage”, a small rocket designed to increase payloads to satellites in their final circular orbit once the Electron takes them into space. However, instead of just packing the propulsion system, the Photon will carry additional electronics, steering sensors, powertrain units, and tools like cameras. This means that Foton can act as a satellite by itself so that customers do not need to contract with third-party suppliers to design and build it.
Usually, once Kick Stage does its job, Rocket Lab loosens its orbit to burn in the atmosphere. However, this time he sent a command about him to Photonic Satellite Mode to continue a standalone mission called “First Light”. Designed as a demo, it is equipped with solar panels and a camera that can take pictures of itself and the Earth.
Finally, customers will be able to choose the “Launch plus Spacecraft” mission using the Electron Rocket and Photon satellites, which “cancels[s] “The complexity, risks and delays associated with the need to build their own satellite equipment and purchase a separate launch,” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said in a statement.
During a press conference, Beck said the company had secretly released the Photon “to make sure it is fine and working before it is announced.” Rocket Lab said a high-energy version of the photon will eventually fly “lunar and interplanetary missions”, including NASA’s Capstone mission in early 2021. In this mission, the photon will fly as a “explorer” who will assist the program’s Gateway spacecraft. Artemis safely approached the moon.
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