Rocket Lab has completed its first mission from its new launch site in the US, a major step forward for the company as it seeks to better compete with the likes of SpaceX.
The IS Virginia is for Launch Lovers the mission successfully lifted off from Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Tuesday afternoon.
The spaceflight company used its trusty Electron rocket to deploy three satellites for Hawkeye 360, a radio frequency geospatial analytics company, to an orbit 342 miles (550 kilometers) above Earth.
It means that Rocket Lab has now launched 33 Electron missions from three different pads in two countries – the US and New Zealand – deploying a total of 155 satellites into orbit.
Rocket Lab live-streamed the mission, which showed the early stages of the Electron’s flight. You can watch the address below. However, there was a longer than usual wait – and a bit tense – for confirmation that the mission was successful. This delay was attributed to a ground station malfunction which temporarily prevented communication between the satellite and the ground crew. Fortunately, about 90 minutes after the launch, a relief team was able to confirm that everything had gone as planned.
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck expressed his joy at the success of the mission, thanking everyone involved.
Now with two launch complexes in two countries, rival SpaceX says it will be able to support more than 130 annual launches for government and commercial satellite operators.
In addition to expanding its satellite launch service using the Electron, Rocket Lab is building its next-generation rocket, the Neutron, which will also launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, with its first test launch targeted for 2024. .
Emulating SpaceX and its successful Falcon 9 rocket, the Neutron first-stage booster is designed to return to Earth and land directly so it can be used for multiple missions. This allows Rocket Lab to reduce costs and offer competitive prices to customers who want to deploy satellites in space. The Neutron will also be capable of interplanetary missions and even manned spaceflight.