Rocket Lab mission blasts off, United States spy agency's satellites deployed

James Marshall
June 15, 2020

That mission will be Rocket Lab's first from U.S. soil, and is scheduled for no earlier than the third quarter of 2020.

The Don't Stop Me Now mission lifted off from Rocket Lab's privately-owned launch complex at 05:12:12 UTC on June 13.

That's good news both for Rocket Lab's existing operation, and for its ongoing work to establish a second launch site at its Mahia facility, which is well underway and could go into operation sometime later this year. The company originally scheduled the launch for late March but postponed it because of restrictions on activities in New Zealand meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Saturday's launch put into orbit satellites to orbit for NASA, the America's National Reconnaissance Office, and the University of New South Wales Canberra Space. One, Ad-Hoc Network Demonstration for Extended Satellite-Based Inquiry and Other Team Endeavors (ANDESITE), was built by students at Boston University to study the Earth's magnetic fields.

"All satellites deployed, flawless orbit", tweeted Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck.

In statement, the company said the latest mission marked the second time NASA and the NRO launched payloads on the Electron platform.

Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck said the mission highlighted Electron's continued ability to meet the needs of government missions, whether payloads required a dedicated mission or could fly as part of a ride-share.

Rocket Lab has returned to active launch status from its first launchpad in New Zealand, after the global COVID-19 pandemic temporarily paused its work there.

The M2 Pathfinder satellite - a collaboration between UNSW Canberra Space and the Australian Government - will carry out tests related to Australia's future space capabilities. The company has not yet disclosed a launch date or customer for its next launch from New Zealand, but said it is planning its first launch from Launch Complex 2 at Wallops Island, Virginia, for the third quarter of this year.

That mission will be Rocket Lab's first from USA soil, and is scheduled for no earlier than the third quarter of 2020. That mission will launch a single micro-sat for the Air Force Research Laboratory's Monolith program, which will explore whether small satellites can support large aperture payloads for space weather monitoring. The mission is being coordinated by the US Space Force.

A parachute was attached to the test stage, which was snagged around 5000-feet by a helicopter using a specially designed grappling hook. The two-stage Electron rocket climbed skywards completing its first stage burn approximately three minutes after liftoff.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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