Alba Orbital’s PocketQube deployer, 3D printed by CRP Technology using Windform XT 2.0 as the printing material, has reached a new milestone. It has successfully taken part in Rocket Lab’s latest space mission from New Zealand, deploying four PocketQubes into a circular orbit. It was also a recovery mission where, for the first time, Rocket Lab caught the launch vehicle’s first stage as it returned from space under parachutes and with the use of a helicopter.
Alba Orbital’s second launch of 2022, ‘Alba Cluster X’, has also recently happened from Pad A at Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula.
As part of Rocket Lab’s “There And Back Again” mission, which comprised 34 satellites to a sun-synchronous orbit, the Alba Orbital launch deployed 4 PocketQube satellites out of the 34, using Alba’s advanced 3D printing system – “AlbaPod v2”. It was manufactured by CRP Technology using Carbon fiber reinforced Windform XT 2.0 composite material. More specifically, the 3D printing technology used is Selective Laser Sintering, which CRP Technology has helped to improve through the creation and use of Windform materials.
The satellites onboard the Alba Cluster X flight were Alba’s Unicorn-2F and three 1p PocketQubes on behalf of ACME AtronOmatic/MyRadar, who plan to launch a 250-satellite weather data constellation.
Unicorn-2 carries an optical night-time imaging payload designed to monitor light pollution across the globe. “Night Lights” data (the Night-time satellite imagery) provide crucial insights into human activities, enabling a host of applications such as monitoring light pollution, evaluating armed conflicts and disasters, empowering maritime surveillance, and validating sustainable satellite tech. Unicorn-2F phoned home on the first pass.
All four PocketQubes were deployed to a 500km circular orbit by Electron’s Kick Stage, a nimble spacecraft that provides in-space propulsion and maneuvering capability to ensure each satellite is deployed to a precise and unique orbit defined by the customer.
This mission was also a recovery mission where, for the first time, Rocket Lab attempted a mid-air capture of Electron’s first stage as it returned from space using parachutes and a helicopter. The successful catch brings Electron one step closer to being the first reusable orbital smallsat launcher.