Washington: The first ever private mission to Venus by Rocket Lab has been delayed till 2025, according to a media report.
The mission to Venus, originally scheduled to launch last month, is “not imminent”, the American aerospace manufacturer and launch service provider told TechCrunch.
“Our focus right now is on delivering customer missions as a priority,” the company spokesperson was quoted as saying. They did not provide any further reasons for the delay, the report said. January 2025, was the original backup launch window for the Venus probe.
While more than 30 Venus missions have been undertaken, Rocket Lab’s will be the first private exploration of the planet.
Rocket Lab announced the probe to Venus last August.
The tiny probe, measuring just 40 centimetres in diameter, aims to search supporting evidence of organic compounds in the cloud layer — traces of life.
The company plans to use its Electron launch vehicle and Photon spacecraft to send a probe to around 30 miles’ altitude, where Venus’ atmospheric conditions are closer to those found on Earth.
The probe mission will spend about 5 minutes in the Venus cloud layers at 48-60 km altitude above the surface and collect in situ measurements, according to the peer-reviewed journal Aerospace.
While the company funded the mission, a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other organisations contributed to the scientific payload.
Research has shown that Venus was once a habitable planet similar to Earth. A 2019 study from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies found that Venus could have had shallow oceans on the surface for two to three billion years and this would have supported temperatures of between 68 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
Around 700 million years ago though, a resurfacing event released carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, turning Venus into a dangerous, inhospitable planet where atmospheric temperatures reach 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rocket Lab also developed the high-energy Photon for the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) mission for NASA, which launched in June 2022. The company will also use this upper stage variant for a NASA mission to Mars next year.