Update at 7:58 pm ET: Rocket Lab’s launch attempt tonight from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia was called off due to high winds in the upper levels. Next time I will try to launch it Monday, Dec. 19during the 2 hour window that runs 6-8 pm EST (2300-0100 Dec. 20 GMT).
After years of launching rockets from New Zealand, the commercial space company’s Rocket Lab is ready for its US launch debut.
California-based Rocket Lab will launch its first mission from US soil today (Dec. 18) from its new Launch Complex 2 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. The mission, which will use an electronic rocket to launch three HawkEye 360 satellites into orbit, will have a two-hour window that will open at 6 p.m. EST (2300 GMT) and you can watch it for free in the window above. Rocket Lab will begin its webcast approximately 40 minutes before liftoff.
“Obviously, this is a significant milestone for Rocket Lab,” CEO Peter Beck told reporters at a press conference on December 14. “It feels great to be in this place.” Rocket Lab was originally scheduled for Dec. 13. launch, but the liftoff pushed back to clear obstacles, weather and to complete the final flight of the cards.
Related: Rocket Lab’s 1 US launch in the East can be seen along the east coast on Dec. 18
Rocket Lab Launch Visibility!
Rocket Lab’s 1 US launch could be seen by millions across the East! See here where and when. If you see it, let us know with pictures and comments email@example.com!
Sunday’s launch, called “Virginia Is For Launch Lovers” (a play on the tourism motto “Virginia Is For Lovers”), will mark the beginning of a new era of flexibility for Rocket Lab, which aims to serve launch customers around the world. . The company worked with NASA at Wallops, as well as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Space Agency on commercial expeditions from Wallops to develop the new pad.
So far, Rocket Lab has used its two pads at Launch Complex 1 on the coast of New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula to fly missions. The US Code will allow the company to send missions to customers who require US-based support, such as government or military customers. Beck said.
Rocket Lab opened its Launch Complex 2 in 2019 and plans to launch its first mission from there in 2020. But that first flight was delayed for two years due to delays in NASA’s development of a new autonomous flight system, a security system requirement. The electron from Wallops moves the flight more easily. The rocket lab uses a version of NASA’s autonomous flight termination system, which the company calls Pegasus, for electronic flights.
David Pierce, NASA’s director of the Wallop Flight Facility, told reporters that NASA had discovered errors in the system’s program, and later testing by the space agency, the US Space Force and the Federal Aviation Administration, were the reasons for the delay. NASA and the FAA completed certification of the system ahead of Sunday’s project launch, and signed off on the final paperwork on Saturday (Dec. 17).
“It took nothing less than a Herculean effort to get us to this point, because the milestones in operations have been lowered, not only at Wallops, but across the United States,” Pierce said.
Rocket Lab’s Virginia Is For Launch Lovers mission is the first of three flights for Virginia-based company HawkEye 360, which is building a constellation of small satellites for radio frequency surveillance. Under the multi-party agreement that HawkEye 360 struck in April, the Lab rocket will send 15 small satellites into orbit by 2024.
“These missions will augment the HawkEye 360 constellation of radio frequency monitoring satellites, allowing the company to better target accurate radio frequency emissions worldwide,” wrote the Rocket Lab in the mission description. (Opens in a new tab).
First mission from US soil First mission for @hawkeye360 ✅ First mission with Flight Autonomous Termination System at WallopsVirginia is For Launch Lovers NET Dec 15 . Stay tuned for weather updates pic.twitter.com/P7Dlq0X01hDecember 13, 2022
Rocket Lab is finally planning to release an electronic device from its Wallops pad in one month. The company is also building a new, larger reusable rocket called the Neutron, which will also launch from a US launch site. The first flight of that rocket is expected no earlier than 2024.
Beck said Rocket Lab’s customer service team has already learned from the process of the first mission to Wallops (rocket components are carried in a container to the site) and the basics of preparing a rocket for the new US pad for the new Neutron Program. Rocket Lab is also building a Neutron rocket manufacturing facility in Virginia.
“I think, you know, he’s learning a lot from that,” Beck said. “The next few launches will be significantly more streamlined.”
But now he added the Electron to make his first flight.
“The rocket is ready and on the pad,” Beck said. “The team is ready and it’s time to fly.”
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