Rocket Lab Unveils Updated Lineup of Advanced Spacecraft Bus

Rocket Lab Unveils Updated Lineup of Advanced Spacecraft Bus

Rocket Lab USA, one of the leading launch and space systems companies, introduced its family of spacecraft buses, consolidating the custom designs Rocket Lab has developed for multiple customers and missions. The family of spacecraft is the result of more than four years of development into Rocket Lab’s space systems capabilities.

“We’ve had the privilege of developing, launching, and operating spacecraft for a broad range of customers and they’ve all told us the same thing: They need reliable and highly capable spacecraft built quickly and affordably. Photon was the start, but the Rocket Lab spacecraft family has grown,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. “We’ve developed a configurable spacecraft line that delivers high performance at scale, supported by an experienced team, technical maturity, a vertically integrated supply chain, and advanced manufacturing, test, and operations facilities. We’ve designed these spacecraft through close collaboration with our customers to support real missions at the constellation scale. The hard development work is done, and now these spacecraft are available as off-the-shelf products, or they can be further customized to meet specific mission requirements.”

The spacecraft share many common components and subsystems, designed and manufactured in-house by Rocket Lab, including carbon composite structures, star trackers, reaction wheels, solar arrays, radios, separation systems, avionics, flight and ground software.

"Through vertical integration, we’re able to deliver spacecraft quickly, affordably, and reliably using flight-proven components,” says Rocket Lab Vice President of Space Systems, Brad Clevenger. “We’ve struck the right balance between commonality to deliver cost-effective, rapid production and ensuring our spacecraft are configurable to suit unique and specific mission profiles.”

Rocket Lab’s family of spacecraft includes:

Photon: The original Rocket Lab spacecraft, Photon is the Company’s integrated launch-plus-spacecraft solution. Photon is a modified Electron Kick Stage with power, propulsion, and communications to deliver a capable low Earth orbit (LEO) platform that serves civil, defense, and commercial customers across a range of missions. With a mass of 200-300kg, Photon is launched on Electron for responsive space and other challenging missions like cryogenic fuel demonstration, taking advantage of precision orbit insertion, launch on demand, and the lowest launch environments in the industry.

Lightning: Rocket Lab’s newest spacecraft bus is designed for a 12+ year orbital lifespan in LEO, delivers high power and high radiation tolerance, incorporating redundancy in critical subsystems. This ~3 kW bus is ideal for high operational duty cycle telecommunications and remote sensing applications. Lightning can be launched on Neutron and other medium and heavy launch vehicles. Lightning is based on the same design as the custom spacecraft Rocket Lab developed for MDA and Globalstar and is the basis for the Company’s bus for the Space Development Agency.

Pioneer: A highly configurable medium delta-V platform designed to support payloads up to 120 kg and unique mission profiles, including re-entry missions for Varda Space Industries, and dynamic space operations. Depending on the mission profile, Pioneer can be launched on Electron, Neutron, or other launch vehicles.

Explorer: A high delta-V spacecraft with large propellant tanks, deep space capable avionics, and ranging transponders. Explorer enables small spacecraft missions to planetary destinations like Mars and Venus, the Moon, highly eccentric Earth orbits, geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO), Earth-moon Lagrange points, Earth-sun Lagrange points, and near-Earth objects (NEOs). Depending on the mission profile, Explorer can be launched on Electron, Neutron, or other launch vehicles. Explorer gained flight heritage during the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon for NASA and forms the basis of the twin spacecraft Rocket Lab is developing for the ESCAPADE mission to Mars for NASA and the University of California, Berkeley.

Each member of Rocket Lab’s spacecraft family is currently in production in a range of quantities for different customers, with more than 40 satellites currently in backlog. To support the rapid production of our family of spacecraft, Rocket Lab has established an advanced spacecraft development and manufacturing complex at the Company’s Long Beach headquarters. The facility includes over 10,000 sq. ft. of cleanroom and 40,000 sq. ft. of additional production & test facilities designed to support constellation class manufacturing and satellite assembly, integration, and testing for commercial, civil, and national security customers.

Click here to learn more about Rocket Lab's Spacecraft Lineup.

Publisher: SatNow

GNSS Constellations - A list of all GNSS satellites by constellations


Satellite NameOrbit Date
BeiDou-3 G4Geostationary Orbit (GEO)17 May, 2023
BeiDou-3 G2Geostationary Orbit (GEO)09 Mar, 2020
Compass-IGSO7Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)09 Feb, 2020
BeiDou-3 M19Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M20Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M21Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M22Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 I3Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M23Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019
BeiDou-3 M24Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019


Satellite NameOrbit Date
GSAT0223MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0224MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0219MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0220MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0221MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0222MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0215MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0216MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0217MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0218MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Kosmos 2569--07 Aug, 2023
Kosmos 2564--28 Nov, 2022
Kosmos 2559--10 Oct, 2022
Kosmos 2557--07 Jul, 2022
Kosmos 2547--25 Oct, 2020
Kosmos 2545--16 Mar, 2020
Kosmos 2544--11 Dec, 2019
Kosmos 2534--27 May, 2019
Kosmos 2529--03 Nov, 2018
Kosmos 2527--16 Jun, 2018


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Navstar 82Medium Earth Orbit19 Jan, 2023
Navstar 81Medium Earth Orbit17 Jun, 2021
Navstar 78Medium Earth Orbit22 Aug, 2019
Navstar 77Medium Earth Orbit23 Dec, 2018
Navstar 76Medium Earth Orbit05 Feb, 2016
Navstar 75Medium Earth Orbit31 Oct, 2015
Navstar 74Medium Earth Orbit15 Jul, 2015
Navstar 73Medium Earth Orbit25 Mar, 2015
Navstar 72Medium Earth Orbit29 Oct, 2014
Navstar 71Medium Earth Orbit02 Aug, 2014


Satellite NameOrbit Date
NVS-01Geostationary Orbit (GEO)29 May, 2023
IRNSS-1IInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)12 Apr, 2018
IRNSS-1HSub Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (Sub-GTO)31 Aug, 2017
IRNSS-1GGeostationary Orbit (GEO)28 Apr, 2016
IRNSS-1FGeostationary Orbit (GEO)10 Mar, 2016
IRNSS-1EGeosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)20 Jan, 2016
IRNSS-1DInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)28 Mar, 2015
IRNSS-1CGeostationary Orbit (GEO)16 Oct, 2014
IRNSS-1BInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Apr, 2014
IRNSS-1AInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)01 Jul, 2013