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This Small, 3-D Printed Rocket Could Make It Easier To Get To Space

Rocket Lab, a Silicon Valley company, launched the Electron rocket into space for the first time.
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This Small, 3-D Printed Rocket Could Make It Easier To Get To Space

A partially battery-powered, 3-D printed rocket just made it to space.

Rocket Lab, a Silicon Valley aerospace company, launched a roughly 55-foot rocket called Electron from New Zealand toward one of its outer peninsulas. The rocket reached space in three minutes.

Electron is the first orbital-grade rocket to take off from a private site — ever. It's also pretty low-cost and quick to make.

That's a really big deal because it could allow space travel to become more accessible. For example, NASA, one of Rocket Lab's clients, could afford to send more astronauts to space for research. Electron's success could even make way for civilian space tourism.

CEO Peter Beck thinks the success of this launch could eventually lead to "improved weather reporting, internet from space, natural disaster prediction, up-to-date maritime data as well as search and rescue services."

This test launch was the first of three scheduled for 2017. The next step is getting Electron into orbit and increasing the weight it can carry.

Once Rocket Lab figures that out, the company will start commercial operations. Eventually, it could launch up to 120 times a year.