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Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 1 for the NASA ELaNa19 mission. (Credit: Trevor Mahlmann/Rocket Lab)

A series of new CubeSats now are in space, conducting a variety of scientific investigations and technology demonstrations, following launch on Dec. 16, 2018, of Rocket Lab’s first mission for NASA under a Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) contract.

An Electron rocket lifted off from the company’s launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, marking the first time CubeSats have launched for NASA on a rocket designed specifically for small payloads.

“With the VCLS effort, NASA has successfully advanced the commercial launch service choices for smaller payloads, providing viable dedicated small launch options as an alternative to the rideshare approach,” said Jim Norman, director of Launch Services at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This first mission is opening the door for future launch options.”

This mission includes 10 Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa)-19 payloads, selected by NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative designed to enhance technology development and student involvement.

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