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 Opens Second Launch Complex on Wallops Island

Rocket Lab’s launch complex on Wallops Island. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Ten months after the first pilings were driven in, Rocket Lab declared its new launch complex on Wallops Island, Va., open and ready to serve the U.S. military’s need for rapid response launches with the company’s Electron booster.

“We’re proud to call Wallops Island in Virginia our home. We’re very proud to deliver a new launch capability to the United States. We’re very proud to support U.S. missions with a U.S. launch vehicle on U.S. soil,” CEO Peter Beck said during a press conference.

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Rocket Lab, OSIRIS-REx and Starliner Announcements Set for Thursday

Launch complexes on Wallops Island, Virginia

There are three major events that you can tune in for on Thursday.

Rocket Lab Wallops Launch Complex
11 a.m. EST
www.rocketlabusa.com

CEO Peter Beck will host a webcast from Wallops Island, Va., to open the company’s new launch complex and announce the first flight of the Electron booster from U.S. soil.

This artist’s concept shows the Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security – Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft contacting the asteroid Bennu with the Touch-And-Go Sample Arm Mechanism or TAGSAM. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

NASA OSIRIS-REx Sampling Site
1 p.m. EST
http://nasa.gov/live

NASA will announced the site where OSIRIS-REx will collect a soil sample from asteroid Bennu.

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft rolls out from the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credits: Boeing)

NASA Boeing CST-100 Starliner Mission Preview
2 p.m. EST (approximate)
https://www.nasa.gov/live

NASA and Boeing officials will hold a news teleconference for the upcoming CST-100 Starliner orbital test flight to the International Space Station on Dec. 20.

The teleconference will begin no earlier than 2 p.m. EST, or approximately one hour after the flight readiness review ends. The start time will be adjusted as necessary. 

Rocket Lab Launches Satellites, Tests Next-Gen Reusable Booster

Electron booster blasts into space. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A Rocket Lab next-generation Electron rocket blasted off from New Zealand on Friday, placing seven small satellites into Earth orbit and conducting the first test of a new reusable first stage.

The Electron’s 10th launch, nicknamed “Running Out of Fingers,” included six PocketQube micro-satellites measuring a mere 5 cm built by Alba Orbital. A seventh satellite built by a Japanese company will release particles that will create an artificial meteor shower.

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Rocket Lab to Deliver Payloads to Moon and Beyond with Photon

Photon stage (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Extended range Photon missions to medium, geostationary and lunar orbits will support deeper space exploration and the return of human presence on the moon

Washington DC, 21 October 2019 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, the global leader in dedicated small satellite launch, has today unveiled plans to support extended range missions to medium, geostationary, and lunar orbits with the company’s Photon satellite platform.

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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 Announces Reusability Plans For Electron Rocket

Electron rocket descending (Credit: Rocket Lab)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., August 6, 2019 (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab, the global leader in dedicated small satellite launch, has revealed plans to recover and re-fly the first stage of its Electron launch vehicle. The move aims to enable Rocket Lab to further increase launch frequency by eliminating the need to build a new first stage for every mission.

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Kleos Scouting Mission Launch Period Extended

LUXEMBOURG, 22 July 2019 (Kleos Space PR) — Kleos Space S.A. (ASX: KSS, Frankfurt: KS1), a space-powered Radio Frequency Reconnaissance data provider, has been informed by launch provider Rocket Lab that the Kleos’ Scouting Mission launch period has been extended to October 2019.

Kleos’ CEO Andy Bowyer said, “The Kleos Scouting Mission launch is dependent on parties outside of Kleos control. Notwithstanding that our team has ensured that our satellites are mission ready, but we cannot launch without a vehicle.

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Rocket Lab Unveils Spacecraft Program

Photon system (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Rocket Lab becomes an integrated spacecraft builder and launch provider, enabling small satellite operators to focus on delivering data and services from space

Space Symposium, Colorado Springs. April 8, 2019 (Rocket Lab PR) – U.S. small satellite launch company Rocket Lab has announced the next evolution of its mission services; the in-house designed and built Photon™ satellite platform.

As the global leader in small satellite launch, Rocket Lab now delivers an integrated spacecraft build and launch service. The end-to-end mission solution enables small satellite customers to focus on delivering their service from orbit and generating revenue, rather than building their own satellite hardware.

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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 Raises $140 Million in Funding

Electron It’s Business Time lift-off (Credits: Kieran Fanning & Sam Toms)

  • Rocket Lab reveals $140 million (USD) funding in Series E financing, closed in advance of the company’s second successful orbital mission, ‘It’s Business Time’ on 11 November.
  • Investors show continued ardent support in pre-‘It’s Business Time’ launch round led by existing backers Future Fund (Australia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund), with participation from current investors Greenspring Associates, Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, DCVC (Data Collective), Promus Ventures, and K1W1.
  • New investor, the Accident Compensation Corporation of New Zealand (ACC), also joins the round.
  • Funding will support continued Electron vehicle production expansion, new launch sites and three new major research and development programs.

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., November 15, 2018 (Rocket Lab PR) – US orbital launch provider Rocket Lab has closed a Series E financing round of $140 million (USD). The funding round closed last month, prior to the launch of the successful mission ‘It’s Business Time,’ and was led by existing investor Future Fund, with strong participation from current investors including Greenspring Associates, Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, DCVC (Data Collective), Promus Ventures and K1W1. New investor ACC also contributed to the round. The Series E round close brings total Rocket Lab funding to date to more than $288 million (USD), with the company now soaring past its previous $1 billion-plus (USD) valuation.

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Video: CNBC Interviews Rocket Lab Founder Peter Beck

Video Caption: Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket comes at a price tag that’s only a fraction of the $50 million or more it costs to launch a larger rocket. How will that revolutionize the industry and expand who will be able to send satellites into space? Rocket Lab put seven spacecraft in orbit on Saturday with its first commercial launch, as the company grew its lead in the burgeoning small rocket industry.

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Rocket Lab Selects Wallops Island for U.S. Launch Site

Electron launch (Credit: Rocket Lab)

RICHMOND, Va. (Virginia Governor’s Office PR)—Governor Ralph Northam announced today that Rocket Lab, a California-based company, has chosen Virginia Space and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport as the location for Launch Complex-2 (LC-2), Rocket Lab’s first launch facility located in the United States.

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Rocket Lab Signs Contract to Launch First Satellites for Kleos Space Constellation

Electron rocket on the launch pad. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

LUXEMBOURG and HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., 19 September 2018 (Rocket Lab/Kleos Space PR) — US orbital launch provider Rocket Lab has signed a contract with Luxembourg-based satellite technology company Kleos Space to launch the scouting mission satellites that will geolocate maritime radio to guard borders, protect assets and save lives.

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