Now, Rocket Lab is joining in on the fun, with CEO Peter Beck having long ago set his sights on sending a mission to Earth’s neighbor.
Searching for alien life in the clouds of Venus
Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket recently launched a small CubeSat towards the moon for NASA’s CAPSTONE mission. That mission will test a potential orbit for the space agency’s lunar Gateway station. The U.S. space agency also recently contracted the company’s Photon spacecraft solution to send two orbital spacecraft to Mars.
On Tuesday, August 16, Rocket Lab announced it will self-fund the development of a small spacecraft designed to deploy a tiny probe through the clouds of Venus for approximately five minutes. The probe will fly at an altitude of 48 to 60 kilometers. MIT professor Sara Seager has teamed up with MIT for the design of the mission.
Once the mission is ready to go, Rocket Lab will launch the spacecraft aboard its Electron launch vehicle into a 165 km orbit above Earth. Electron’s Photon upper stage will then perform a number of burns to raise the spacecraft’s orbit to escape velocity. The first potential launch window is in May 2023, and the spacecraft is expected to take approximately six months to reach its destination. Once it reaches Venus, Photon will deploy a roughly 20-kg probe into the planet’s atmosphere.