Rocket Lab's 1st Commercial Launch in Pictures: 'It's Business Time'!

It's Business Time for Rocket Lab!

Rocket Lab

In November 2018, the private spaceflight company Rocket Lab successfully launched its first commercial mission using its Electron booster. The rocket "It's Business Time" launched six small satellites into orbit. See photos of the milestone launch here. In this photo, the Electron blasts off from Rocket Lab's pad on New Zealand's Mahia Penninsula at 4:50 p.m. New Zealand time on Nov. 11, 2018 local time (10:50 p.m. EST/0350 Nov. 11 GMT).


Rocket Lab

This dazzling view of Rocket Lab's Electron launching the company's first commercial mission was captured by the firm's photographers Kieran Fanning and Sam Toms. "Our team's photos never disappoint," Rocket Lab representatives said in a statement.

The View from Orbit

Rocket Lab

Several of the six small satellite payloads on Rocket Lab's It's Business Time mission can be seen in this view from the booster's upper stage, with the Earth providing a brilliant backdrop in space. For It's Business Time, Rocket Lab launched two cubesats for Fleet Space Systems, two Lemur-2 cubesats for Spire Global, and one satellite each for Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems and Irvine Cubesat STEM Program. The Electron's Curie upper stage also carried "NABEO, a drag sail technology demonstrator, designed and built by High Performance Space Structure Systems GmbH, to passively de-orbit inactive small satellites and reduce space junk," according to a Rocket Lab statement.

Meet the Electron

Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab's It's Business Time Electron rocket stands atop its pad ahead of launch. The Electron rocket is 55.7 feet tall (17 meters) and consists of two stages, with an optional kick stage. It uses liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene as propellant.

Waiting to Fly

Rocket Lab

Rocket's Electron booster stands atop its pad on launch day. It's Business Time marked Rocket Lab's third Electron launch, but it was the first flight for actual paying customers. The first two flights (This Is A Test and Still Testing) were test flights.

Rocket Lab Mission Control

Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck tweeted out this photo from inside his company's launch control center ahead of the milestone It's Business Time launch. "Count proceeding!" he wrote.

A Small Satellite Launcher

Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab's Electron looks sleek with its black paint job for It's Business Time. Rocket Lab's Electron rockets are designed to launch small satellites into orbit at an unprecedented pace. The rocket can carry payloads of up to 330 pounds (150 kilgrams) into orbit for $5 million per flight.

Irvine Cubesat STEM Launch

Rocket Lab

The Irvine01 cubseat on It's Business Time was built by high school students in Irvine, California as part of the Irvine Cubesat STEM program. Here, Melinda Chiao, a member of Team Power's Battery Group for the ICSP, is seen at Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 for satellite charging activities. "Exciting to see years of hard work come to fruition for these students!" Rocket Lab said.

Lemur-2 Finishing Touches

Rocket Lab

Spire Global engineers put the finishing touches on one of two Lemur-2 cubesats that launched into orbit on Rocket Lab's It's Business Time flight. Spire is building a constellation of Lemur-2 satellites to track weather and ship-tracking data.

Fleet Satellites

Rocket Lab

These two Fleet Space Technologies satellites were late additions to the It's Business Time mission. Rocket Lab announced their presence on the mission on Oct. 29, 2018. Fleet will use the two satellites to serve as the foundation for a new constellation for a "global Internet of Things constellation," according to Rocket Lab.

New Zealand Launch Site

Rocket Lab

A picturesque view of Rocket Lab's Electron booster atop Launch Complex 1, the company's launch site on Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. The site is one of two launch sites for Rocket Lab, which recently began construction on a new U.S. launch site at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Virginia.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.