Not the Southern Rail of the stars: Rocket Lab plans frequent, regular trips to Venus from 2023

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Peter Beck and 300 seconds of really rather interesting data
A month can be a long time in space exploration. Since we last spoke to Rocket Lab's Peter Beck, scientists have published results that hint at life in the clouds of Venus, while Beck's rocketeers popped a Photon demonstrator into Earth orbit.

CEO Beck talked with us about his plans for a privately funded Venus mission a month ago, but was careful with his words, laughing "otherwise I get headlines like 'Pete's searching for aliens'".

The speculation generated by the Royal Astronomical Society press briefing a few short weeks later generated far more lurid copy about what might be floating about in the atmosphere of Venus. Beck's passion for the mission remains, however, undimmed.

With Flight 14 safely away, replete with a surprise demonstrator of Rocket Lab's Photon spacecraft, Beck was happy to go into detail on what he planned to launch to Venus in May 2023.

The mission profile is deceptively simple. The interplanetary version of the Photon will undertake a voyage of around 160-180 days to Venus. The probe will detach and, as Photon performs a flyby of the planet, plunge into the atmosphere at approximately 11 kilometres per second, transmitting data as it goes.

This is where the real fun starts.

"We get around 300 seconds of really interesting time in the region that everybody's interested in," explained Beck, "and the real challenge right now is the instrument.…
Richard Speed
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