Rocket Company to Build Launch Pad at Wallops

James Marshall
October 19, 2018

Rocket Lab's Electron "Still Testing" launch vehicle lifts off from its New Zealand launch pad on 21 January, 2018. Photograph courtesy of Rocket Lab.

Rocket Lab said Wednesday it will build its launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on the Eastern Shore.

Launch Complex 2 will be capable of supporting monthly orbital launches and is created to serve USA government and commercial missions. Beck said he sees the Wallops launch site as a "boutique" launchpad for customers who are not able to travel to Rocket Lab's primary launch site, LC-1 in New Zealand. Virginia continues to play a key role in national security and assured access to space, as one of only four states in the United States hosting a spaceport licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to launch spacecraft into orbit or on interplanetary trajectories.

As many as 12 Electron launches could take place annually once the Wallops complex is finished, Beck said, and the New Zealand site could accommodate as many as 120 launches annually. It's capable of carrying small satellites up to 500 pounds into orbit.

Rocket Lab chose Virginia's state-owned spaceport over US finalists that included Alaska's Pacific Spaceport Complex and Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Rocket Lab will work with Virginia Space to construct dedicated pad infrastructure at the site, tailored to the Electron launch vehicle.

In addition to the new launch pad, Rocket Lab will develop a launch vehicle integration and assembly facility at Wallops Research Park to support the integration of up to five Electron rockets simultaneously. The facility will also contain a control room with connectivity to LC-2, as well as dedicated customer facilities.

Rocket Lab, which recently built its first launch pad in New Zealand, is setting up in Virginia at a time of unprecedented growth in the use of smaller and relatively affordable satellites. The second rocket managed to successfully reach orbit in January.

Rocket Lab will launch its 57-foot Electron rocket from the spaceport.

"From the very beginning of discussions, it was clear that Rocket Lab was an extremely good fit with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport,"stated Virginia Space CEO and Executive Director Dale Nash". We'd like to thank Rocket Lab for their confidence in our team. The new Virginia launch facility is planned to help Rocket Lab meet demand from commercial and government customers. Collocated on the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia, the mission of Virginia Space and MARS is to provide low-priced, safe, reliable, "schedule-friendly" access to space and secure facilities for testing of unmanned vehicles for integration into the National Air Space. "We look forward, along with our partner Virginia Space and its Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, to supporting Rocket Lab's Electron missions and expanding commercial launch operations from Wallops".

Four spaceports were shortlisted to become Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2, including Cape Canaveral, Wallops Flight Facility, Pacific Spaceport Complex - Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Rocket Lab has its US headquarters and production facility in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Rocket Lab's next mission, nicknamed "It's Business Time", is scheduled to launch in November after a series of delays.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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