Rocket Lab completed its maiden mission from its new US launch site, marking a big step forward for the company as it tries to better compete with the likes of SpaceX.
He Virginia is for pitch lovers The mission lifted off from Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility Tuesday night.
The spaceflight company used its trusty Electron rocket to deploy three satellites for Hawkeye 360, a radio frequency geospatial analysis company, into an orbit 342 miles (550 kilometers) above Earth.
It means Rocket Lab has now launched 33 Electron missions from three different platforms in two countries, the US and New Zealand, deploying a total of 155 satellites into orbit.
Rocket Lab broadcast the mission live, which showed the early stages of the Electron’s flight. You can watch the launch below. However, there was a longer than usual, and quite tense, wait to confirm the success of the mission. The delay was attributed to a ground station malfunction that temporarily prevented communications between the satellite and equipment on the ground. Fortunately, around 90 minutes after launch, a relieved team was able to confirm that everything had gone according to plan.
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck tweeted his delight at the mission’s success and thanked everyone involved.
Now with two launch complexes in two countries, SpaceX’s rival says it will be able to support more than 130 launches a year for government and commercial satellite operators.
In addition to expanding its satellite launch service using Electron, Rocket Lab is also building its next-generation rocket, the Neutron, which will also launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, with its first test launch expected in 2024.
Emulating SpaceX and its successful Falcon 9 rocket, Neutron’s first stage booster is designed to return to Earth for a vertical landing so it can be used on multiple missions. This allows Rocket Lab to reduce costs and offer competitive prices to customers interested in deploying satellites in space. The Neutron will also be capable of interplanetary missions and even human spaceflight.