Rocket Lab, the private space company that launches rockets every few weeks, revealed that its most recent launch included a secret payload developed by the company itself. Called ‘Photon’, this payload was a demonstration of Rocket Lab’s latest business initiative, which will allow the company to offer ‘end-to-end space solutions’ to customers who need them. The Photon satellite is the first that was designed and built internally by Rocket Lab.
The secret payload was launched as part of the launch of Rocket Lab’s 14th Electron rocket, entitled ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Optical’. The launch took place in New Zealand on August 31 and was a success. What we didn’t know at the time was that the Rocket Lab secretly deployed its own payload in the form of its modified Kick Stage to introduce a new satellite mode.
This happened after the Electron mission deployed the small payload of the customer it carried – the one the public was informed about. The company explains that Photon is essentially a two-in-one spacecraft; first he worked to deploy the customer’s payloads, then switched to satellite mode to carry out his own mission.
This demonstration vehicle was called ‘First Light’ and was used to prove that Rocket Lab can offer its customers end-to-end space mission capabilities. Speaking of the achievement, Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said:
We started with launch and solved it, releasing small satellites from the time and orbit constraints experienced when flying on larger launch vehicles. Now we’ve simplified satellites too. Launching the first Photon mission marks a major turning point for space users – it’s now easier to launch and operate a space mission than it has ever been. When our customers choose a launch-plus-spacecraft mission with Electron and Photon, they immediately eliminate the complexity, risk, and delays associated with having to build their own satellite hardware and procure a separate launch.