Electron is a two-stage, partially recoverable orbital launch vehicle developed by Rocket Lab.

Quick Facts About Electron.

- Type: Small-lift orbital launch vehicle.

- Origin : New Zealand, United States .

- Manufacturer: Rocket Lab .

- In service : 25 May 2017 - Active.

- Mass : 12.5 t (28,000 lb).

- Length/Height : 17 m (56 ft).

- Diameter : 1.2 m (3 ft 11 in).

- Payload to LEO : 300 kg (660 lb).

- Payload to SSO : 200 kg (440 lb).

- Propellant: First/Second stage : RP-1/LOX. Kick stage(Optional) : AP, Al, Polydimethylsiloxane .

- Engines: First stage: 9 × Rutherford with thrust of 225 kN (51,000 lbf). Second stage : 1 × Rutherford with thrust of 26 kN (5,800 lbf). Kick stage (optional) : 1 × Curie with thrust of 0.12 kN (27 lbf).

Electron was developed to service the commercial small satellite launch market. Its Rutherford engines are the first electric-pump-fed engine to power an orbital-class rocket. Electron is often flown with a kickstage or Rocket Lab's Photon spacecraft. Although the rocket is designed to be expendable, Rocket Lab has recovered the first stage twice and is working towards the capability of reusing the booster.

In December 2016, Electron completed flight qualification. The first rocket was launched on 25 May 2017, reaching space but not achieving orbit due to a glitch in communication equipment on the ground. During its second flight on 21 January 2018, Electron reached orbit and deployed three CubeSats. The first commercial launch of Electron, and the third launch overall, occurred on 11 November 2018.

Electron uses two stages with the same diameter (1.2 m (3 ft 11 in)) filled with RP-1/LOX propellant. The main body of the rocket is constructed using a lightweight carbon composite material.

Both stages use the Rutherford rocket engine, the first electric-pump-fed engine to power an orbital rocket. The electric pumps are powered by lithium-polymer batteries. The second stage uses three batteries which are "hot swapped", two of the batteries are jettisoned once depleted to shed mass. There are nine Rutherford engines on the first stage and one vacuum-optimized version on the second stage. The first stage engines deliver 162 kN (36,000 lbf) of thrust and the second stage delivers 22 kN (4,900 lbf) of thrust. Almost all of the engines' parts are 3D printed to save time and money in the manufacturing process.

Rocket Lab has also developed an optional third stage, known as the "kick stage", designed to circularize the orbits of its satellite payloads. The stage also puts satellites into a more accurate orbit in less time. The Electron kick stage is equipped with a single Curie engine that is capable of performing multiple burns, uses an unspecified "green" bipropellant, and is 3D printed. It was first used during Electron's second flight. The kick stage can transport up to 150 kg (330 lb) of payload.

Rocket Lab has also developed a derivative spacecraft of the kick stage, Photon, which is intended for use on lunar and interplanetary missions. Photon will be capable of delivering small payloads of up to 30 kg (66 lb) into lunar orbit.

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Electron image
(NRO) payload was successfully launched aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket. Photo Credit : Scott Andrews via NRO and Wikipedia commons. https://www.nro.gov/Media/Images/igphoto/2002241738/