Rocket Lab’s Electron Booster Launches Secret Reconnaissance Payload

Electron rocket lifts off on Jan. 31, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

Rocket Lab successfully launched a payload on Friday from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) from its launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.

The dedicated mission, named “Birds of a Feather,” was the first NRO mission ever launched outside of the United States. Rocket Lab is an American company based in California.

NRO awarded Rocket Lab the contract under its Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) program. RASR is focused on allowing the reconnaissance agency to explore the use of new launch vehicles on a streamlined, commercial basis.

New Zealand as seen from an Electron rocket. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck tweeted that the first stage made it through the atmosphere and down to the ocean for the second time. The company will attempt to use a helicopter to catch a stage during descent on a future flight.

It was Rocket Lab’s first launch of 2020 and the 10th success in 11 launch attempts of Electron. The booster first flew in May 2017.

Rocket Lab to Launch NRO Mission on Jan. 31

Electron lifts off with U.S. Air Force satellites. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., 20 January 2020 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, the global leader in small satellite launch, has announced today that it will launch a dedicated mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The launch window is scheduled to open on 31 January NZDT and the mission, called ‘Birds of a Feather,’ will lift off from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1.

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Rocket Lab Delays Electron Launch Due to Stormy Weather

“As the Crow Flies”

Booster: Electron
Payload: Palisade 16U CubeSat for Astro Digital
Location: Launch Complex 1, Mahia Peninsula, NZ
Launch Period: 15 October – 28 October 2019 NZDT (14 October – 28 October 2019 UTC)
Launch Window: Daily from 12:00 – 16:00 NZDT (23:00 – 03:00 UTC/7 – 11 pm EDT)
Live launch webcast: www.rocketlabusa.com/live-stream (begins 15 – 20 minutes prior to launch)
Launch Day Updates: www.rocketlabusa.com/missions/next-mission/ and follow Rocket Lab on Twitter @RocketLab

An Overview of Rocket Lab’s Next Launch

Electron lifts off with U.S. Air Force satellites. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

“As the Crow Flies”

Booster: Electron
Payload: Palisade 16U CubeSat for Astro Digital
Location: Launch Complex 1, Mahia Peninsula, NZ
Launch Period: 15 October – 28 October 2019 NZDT (14 October – 28 October 2019 UTC)
Launch Window: Daily from 12:00 – 16:00 NZDT (23:00 – 03:00 UTC/7 – 11 pm EDT)
Live launch webcast: www.rocketlabusa.com/live-stream (begins 15 – 20 minutes prior to launch)
Launch Day Updates: www.rocketlabusa.com/missions/next-mission/ and follow Rocket Lab on Twitter @RocketLab

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China Launch Surge Left U.S., Russia Behind in 2018

Long March 2F rocket in flight carrying Shenzhou-11. (Credit: CCTV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.

China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.

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Rocket Lab to Launch 4 Satellites in Look Ma, No Hands Mission

Electron lifts off with U.S. Air Force satellites. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab’s eighth mission will lift-off in August from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, carrying a total of four satellites aboard an Electron launch vehicle.

The mission is manifested with satellites destined to begin a new constellation for UNSEENLABS, as well as more rideshare payloads for Spaceflight, consisting of a spacecraft for BlackSky and the United States Air Force Space Command.

The first launch opportunity is no earlier than Friday, Aug. 16 at 12:57 UTC (8:57 EDT). The launch window is open until Aug. 30.

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Rocket Lab Successfully Launches Rideshare Mission for Spaceflight

Rocket Lab’s launch site on New Zealand Mahia Peninsula as seen from the Electron booster. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Rocket Lab’s Electron booster successfully launched the “Make it Rain” rideshare mission for Seattle-based Spaceflight from New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula on Saturday.

The mission lofted seven satellites, including: BlackSky’s Global-3 imaging microsat; two U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Prometheus reconnaissance CubeSats; two Swarm SpaceBEE satellites; Melbourne Space Program’s ACRUX-1 CubeSat; and one spacecraft from an undisclosed customer. The payloads weighed 80 kg (176.4 lb).

The BlackSky Global-3 imaging satellite was developed, designed and manufactured by BlackSky of the United States. The company is a provider of geospatial intelligence, satellite imaging and global monitoring services.

It was the sixth successful Electron launch in a row out of seven attempts and the third flight of 2019.  Rocket Lab has now orbited 35 satellites on its six successful missions.

The mission’s name was drawn from the high volume of rainfall in Seattle where Spaceflight is headquartered and at the Mahia Peninsula where Electron from which Electron is launched.











Spaceflight’s First Rideshare Mission Aboard a Rocket Lab Electron Readies for Launch

Electron lifts off with U.S. Air Force satellites. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

SEATTLE (Spaceflight PR) — Spaceflight, the leading satellite rideshare and mission management provider, today announced it will launch seven spacecraft from five organizations later this month on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket from Launch Complex 1 at the southern tip of Mahia Peninsula, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. This mission, also called “Make It Rain” by Rocket Lab as a nod to the weather in both Seattle and New Zealand, represents Spaceflight’s first of five launches scheduled with Rocket Lab this year.

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Northrop Grumman Successfully Demonstrates Critical Space Capability for DARPA Mission in Record Time

R3D2 satellite being prepared for launch. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

Rapid prototyping capabilities led DARPA’s R3D2 program to success

REDONDO BEACH, Calif., May 7, 2019 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) successfully demonstrated rapid spacecraft development for the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), with the Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration (R3D2), which launched on March 28, 2019.

Northrop Grumman led a unique team of commercial suppliers to deliver a 150 kg small satellite from concept to orbit in 20 months. Traditional satellites of comparable complexity typically take many years to get to this stage.

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Rocket Lab to Launch 3 More Defense Satellites Later This Month

Ellectron launches NASA’s Venture Class CubeSats. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., April 3, 2019 (Rocket Lab PR) — U.S. small satellite launch company Rocket Lab announced today that it will launch three experimental research and development (R&D) satellites for the U.S. Air Force in April. The mission will lift-off from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, carrying three R&D spacecraft to Low Earth Orbit aboard an Electron launch vehicle. The launch will be Rocket Lab’s second orbital mission of 2019, and fifth orbital mission overall.
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Rocket Lab Successfully Launches DARPA’s R3D2 Satellite

Electron lifts off with DARPA’s R3D2 satellite. (Credits: Kieran Fanning, Sam Tom)

The launch marks Rocket Lab’s 25th satellite deployed to orbit, continuing the company’s mission success heritage

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., March 28, 2019 (Rocket Lab PR) – A Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle successfully lifted off from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 23:27, March 28th UTC (12:27, 29 March NZDT). The mission launched a prototype reflect array antenna to orbit for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

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Rocket Lab Electron Launch Set for Sunday