In a multi-launch agreement announced on September 8, Rocket Lab would launch a complete constellation of the internet-of-things satellites for the French business. Starting in the second quarter of the year 2023, Rocket Lab will deploy 25 satellites for Kinéis more than 5 dedicated launches. The satellites will help the company, which is funded by private investors and French space agency CNES, expand worldwide IoT connectivity services. The company collected 100 million euros in early 2020 to create the constellation.
“We are delighted to commit our constellation of about 25 satellites to the Rocket Lab,” Kinéis CEO Alexandre Tisserant said in a statement. “The logical choice as launch provider to activate the constellation at a rapid pace,” he said of Rocket Lab. In the latest phone interview, Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab, noted that the deployment schedule for the whole constellation would be determined by when the satellites are prepared. “Because it’s a constellation, the consumer usually wants them up quickly,” he explained. “The willingness and ability of our customers to deploy the spacecraft determine our launch cadence.”
The value of a launch deal was not disclosed by the firms. According to Beck, there are “some savings” for bulk orders like this versus individual launches. The Kinéis arrangement is Rocket Lab’s second multi-launch deal for a constellation this year. Rocket Lab announced in March that it had secured a contract for the launch of 8 BlackSky imaging satellites.
“We are the ones who are making the market. “When it comes to small constellation deployment, we’re the go-to guys,” Beck said. Kinéis is a “highly complex customer,” according to him, with criteria for inserting satellites into specified orbital planes at elevations of 650 kilometers, that Electron’s kick stage will handle. “The orbital precision necessary for this constellation is extremely precise. We can only deliver for this customer because of the kick stage and Electron’s great accuracy.”
The BlackSky as well as Kinéis contracts, according to Beck, validate the Electron’s size as larger vehicles with payload capabilities of one metric ton join the market. “I don’t understand how the one-ton class fits,” he remarked. “It’s too big for dedicated launches like we conduct all the time, and it’s very small to be a competitive rideshare against Falcon 9.”
“We’ve been quite analytical and very ruthless about what we believe the size should be from day one,” he stated of Electron, which can send up to 300 kilos into the low Earth orbit (LEO). “We must have accomplished something correctly because we are incredibly busy.”
In late August, Rocket Lab intended to launch the first of three Electron deployments of BlackSky satellites. COVID limitations in New Zealand, along with a lockdown in Auckland, have caused a delay, according to Beck. “The pandemic has resurfaced, making launch operations extremely difficult,” he explained.