Rocket Lab Chief Executive Peter Beck
Rocket Lab Chief Executive Peter Beck. Credit: SpaceNews/Jeff Foust

LOGAN, Utah — Rocket Lab, a U.S.-New Zealand company developing a small launch vehicle, has started booking payload slots on its upcoming launches online, an effort it says that has already resulted in sales.

The ordering system, available on the company’s website, allows customers to purchase slots for one-unit or three-unit cubesats on future launches of its Electron small launch vehicle. Prices range from $70,000 to $80,000 for a one-unit cubesat and $200,000 to $250,000 for a three-unit cubesat, for launches starting in the third quarter of 2016 and extending into 2019.

“In addition to affordable and frequent launch, making space accessible means giving customers information about what they can launch, when they can launch it, and how much it’s going to cost,” said Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, in an Aug. 10 statement. “Previously, this information has been widely difficult to access and the booking process was often cumbersome – now you can do this on your phone.”

Company officials at the Conference on Small Satellites here said Aug. 12 that their online booking system, which started Aug. 10, had already generated some orders. The company, though, did not offer specifics on the number of sales and for what planned launches.

Electron is designed to place payloads of up to 150 kilograms into a 500-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit. Development of the launch vehicle remains on schedule for a first launch by the end of the year, Beck said in an interview here Aug. 12.

Initial launches of Electron are planned for a site in New Zealand the company announced in July. The company also signed an agreement with NASA in July to explore launches from NASA-operated launch facilities in the U.S. Beck said that the company is considering a number of options for a U.S. site, including the new Launch Complex 39C at the Kennedy Space Center, which is designed specifically for small launch vehicles.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...