Rocket Lab to design two satellites for a mission to Mars

Rocket Lab will be designing two satellites for a mission to Mars to study the planet’s solar winds, the company announced tonight. 

Artist's impression of a satellite heading to Mars. Source: Supplied

The mission, part of a multi-million dollar NASA science programme, aims to study solar winds to better understand how the climate of the red planet has changed. 

It’s the furthest Rocket Lab has ever sent satellites to. If all goes to plan, a launch will take place in 2024 aboard another NASA-provided commercial space launch. 

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The New Zealand team will design the photon rockets for the Escapade mission. Source: Breakfast

Kiwi founder and CEO Peter Beck said the mission was “hugely promising”. 

He said sending two satellites to the red planet would give scientists a unique viewpoint because it would show how solar winds strip the atmosphere away from Mars. This will help scientists understand how its climate has changed over time. 

“Planetary science missions have traditionally cost hundreds of millions of dollars and taken up to a decade to come to fruition.”

Beck said Rocket Lab aimed to “demonstrate a more cost-effective approach to planetary exploration”.

Rocket Lab's satellite designs will undergo a NASA preliminary review this month. A confirmation review in July will decide whether the mission actually goes ahead.