Rocket Lab is about to complete its listed SPAC transaction. On Tuesday, the company announced that it had won a pre-contract that may send two of its photonic spacecraft to Mars in 2024 and perform plasma acceleration and dynamics.
The goal is to send a spacecraft into Mars orbit to study the composition of the planet’s magnetosphere to understand better how the solar wind removes the atmosphere over time. Although the full cost of the mission has not yet been announced, a photonic spacecraft the size of an oven in Rocket Lab’s kitchen represents a low-cost method of performing interplanetary missions, usually costing hundreds of millions of dollars or more. Photon is the core of Rocket Lab’s space systems business, which expanded from manufacturing rockets to manufacturing multifunctional spacecraft last year.
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Baker told CNBC: “Traditionally, how interplanetary missions will be accomplished. You are talking about ten-year-old missions, usually with a’B’ [billions] in front of it.” To do… is to re-evaluate and say,’ Wait a minute, for tens of millions of dollars, why can’t you use a smaller spacecraft to go to another planet and really do real, meaningful science?“Said Baker.
The advancement of private companies in rockets and spacecraft has reduced the cost of interplanetary missions, Baker said. The review of escape and plasma dynamics and accelerated explorer missions, called escapes, was conducted for NASA Will be subject to further review. Space expects that the agency will decide whether the company will build the pair of spacecraft at the end of July. NASA has not disclosed the mission costs for the next two phases, namely the construction process and the choice of rockets. For release, it has not been announced yet. But part of the overall goal is to keep costs low. In contrast, a pair of communication relay cube satellites built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory performed a technical demonstration with the arrival of the InSight lander mission in 2018 at the cost of $18.5 million. And get the most scientific value. So I think you’ll think about this mission afterward, “Man, that’s great,” Baker said. “You talk to a planetary scientist, and he might accomplish two things in his entire career, we thought, ‘That’s nonsense, we need to increase the iteration speed here. Escape is also not the company’s first interplanetary mission on deck.
Rocket Lab has previously received another NASA photonic mission called Capstone, scheduled to put a CubeSat into an orbit around the moon this year. Baker said the release date should be announced “soon.” In addition, Rocket Lab is performing a private mission, also using a photonic spacecraft, which will be launched in 2023. Very similar to the Venus mission, we used it more in the Mars escape mission,” Baker said. “We are really trying to build ourselves… If you have some smaller interstellar missions, you want to Achieve big scientific goals, and then we are your one-stop-shop.”
The interplanetary photon is not like a spacecraft launched by Rocket Lab into low-Earth orbit. It requires an enhanced propulsion system, the ability to survive extreme temperature changes, more powerful radio and radiation enhancement, etc. Baker said, rocket experiments Shim hopes to prepare the next neutron rocket in time to compete for the contract.