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Rocket Lab to Launch Four PocketQube Satellites for Alba Orbital

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
August 20, 2021
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Electron launches with 10 satellites on Oct. 29, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

Launching on Electron in Q4 2021, the mission will deploy a range of pocket-sized satellites designed to demonstrate innovative radio and night-time Earth observation technologies

LONG BEACH, Calif., August 18, 2021 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, a leading launch provider and space systems company, today announced it has signed a rideshare agreement with Scottish / American PocketQube satellite manufacturer, Alba Orbital, to launch a cluster of small satellites designed to demonstrate innovative radio and night-time Earth observation technologies. 

The four pico-satellites in Alba Orbital’s cluster will fly as part of a rideshare mission on Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle, lifting-off from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula in Q4, 2021. The cluster includes Alba Orbital’s own Unicorn-2 PocketQube satellites, as well as the TRSI-2, TRSI-3, and MyRadar-1 satellites for Alba Orbital’s customers. Each small satellite carries a unique sensor designed to demonstrate innovative technologies on orbit.

Unicorn-2 will be carrying an optical night-time imaging payload designed to monitor light pollution across the globe. Night-time satellite imagery, otherwise known as ‘Night Lights’ data, provides crucial insights into human activities. This data enables a host of applications such as tracking urbanization and socioeconomic dynamics, evaluating conflict and disasters, investigating fisheries, assessing greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, and analyzing light pollution and health effects.

All four PocketQubes will be deployed to a circular orbit by Electron’s Kick Stage, a nimble spacecraft that provides in-space propulsion and maneuvering capability to ensure each satellite is deployed to a precise and unique orbit defined by the customer.  

“We’re delighted to be Alba Orbital’s mission partner once again,” said Rocket Lab Founder and Chief Executive, Peter Beck. “The Alba Orbital team have proven that incredibly small satellites can be highly capable and deliver tangible insights and services back down to Earth at a fraction of traditional satellite costs. Making it faster, easier and more affordable to access space is a mission we share, so we’re excited to make it possible with Electron.” 

“It’s a pleasure to be working with Rocket Lab again on this exciting mission,” said Tom Walkinshaw, CEO and Founder of Alba Orbital. “We successfully flew six satellites on board Rocket Lab’s ‘Running Out of Fingers’ flight in 2019, and we are thrilled to launch the first of our imaging constellation dedicated to imaging the Earth at night on board the Electron rocket. From day one, Alba Orbital’s mission has always been to democratize access to space, and Rocket Lab has demonstrated that they are whole-heartedly committed to the same vision.”

The Alba cluster joins this mission alongside AuroraSat-1 from Aurora Propulsion Technologies, a Finnish company dedicated to the sustainable use of space. The mission is one of many scheduled to lift off on Electron from Launch Complex 1 this year, including three back-to-back dedicated launches for BlackSky Global, and the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon in support of NASA’s Artemis program. 

About Rocket Lab:

Rocket Lab is a global leader in space, building rockets and spacecraft that make it easier to get to orbit and to do amazing things there. Founded in 2006, Rocket Lab provides end-to-end mission services that provide frequent and reliable access to space for civil, defense, and commercial markets. Headquartered in Long Beach, California, Rocket Lab designs and manufactures the Electron and Neutron launch vehicles and Photon satellite platform. Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle is the second most frequently launched U.S. rocket annually and has delivered more than 100 satellites to orbit for private and public sector organizations, enabling operations in national security, scientific research, space debris mitigation, Earth observation, climate monitoring, and communications. Rocket Lab and Vector Acquisition Corporation (Nasdaq: VACQ), a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company, announced a proposed business combination in the first quarter of 2021 ( The transaction is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2021. Upon closing, the combined company is expected to remain listed on the Nasdaq with its common stock and warrants trading under the new ticker symbols, “RKLB” and “RKLBW”, respectively.

About Alba Orbital:

Alba Orbital (UK, USA, Germany) is the world’s leading PocketQube satellite manufacturer and launch broker. Alba is a vertically integrated NewSpace company ‘democratising access to space’, providing turnkey solutions from advancedpico-satellite platforms,low-cost launch opportunities,ground station services and Earth observation data. Alba has worked withover 25 customers across three continents, including prestigious clients such as Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University and TU Delft. For more information visit or get in touch at [email protected].

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