Rocket Lab to launch rideshare mission for Spaceflight
The mission will be Rocket Lab’s seventh Electron launch and continues the company’s monthly launch cadence
Huntington Beach, California. 10 May, 2019 – Rocket Lab, the global leader in dedicated small satellite launch, announced today that its next flight will launch multiple spacecraft on a mission procured by satellite rideshare and mission management provider, Spaceflight. The launch window will open in June, with launch taking place from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula.
The mission is Rocket Lab’s seventh Electron launch overall and the company’s third for 2019, continuing Rocket Lab’s average monthly launch cadence. The flight follows dedicated missions launched for DARPA and the U.S. Air Force’s Space Test Program in the first months of 2019.
The mission is named ‘Make it Rain’ in a nod to the high volume of rainfall in Seattle, where Spaceflight is headquartered, as well in New Zealand where Launch Complex 1 is located. Among the satellites on the mission for Spaceflight are BlackSky’s Global-4, two U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Prometheus and Melbourne Space Program’s ACRUX-1.
Rocket Lab Founder and CEO Peter Beck says rideshares have historically presented a challenge for small satellite operators, as they’re often at the mercy of the primary payload’s schedule and orbit.
“This exciting mission with Spaceflight demonstrates the new level of freedom now offered to small satellite operators thanks to Electron,” he says. “Rocket Lab puts small satellite operators in charge, offering an unmatched level of control over launch schedule. Thanks to Electron’s Kick Stage, we also deliver the kind of precision orbital deployment normally reserved for a prime.”
The spacecraft manifested on the mission will be delivered to precise, individual orbits by Electron’s Kick Stage. Powered by the 3D printed Curie engine, the Kick Stage carries the payloads to a circular orbit before employing a cold gas reaction control system to orient itself for precise deployment of each satellite at pre-defined intervals. This removes the risk of spacecraft recontact during deployment and ensures each spacecraft is deployed to the ideal orbit.
As the world’s leading small satellite launch provider, Rocket Lab has been delivering small satellites to orbit since January 2018. The company has launched 28 satellites on Electron for a range of government and commercial mission partners including NASA, the DOD Space Test Program and DARPA. Rocket Lab’s 2019 manifest is fully booked with monthly launches, scaling to a launch every two weeks by the end of the year. The first launch from the company’s second launch site, Launch Complex 2, at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia, will also take place later this year.
Rocket Lab successfully launches three R&D satellites to orbit for the U.S. Air Force
The launch took place just five weeks after Rocket Lab’s last orbital mission, demonstrating the company’s ability to provide rapid, responsive space access for government payloads.
Auckland, New Zealand, 05 May 2019 – A Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle successfully lifted off from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 06:00 UTC, Sunday 5 May 2019 (18:00 NZST). The STP-27RD mission launched three research and development satellites for the DoD Space Test Program that will demonstrate advanced space technologies, including a satellite to evaluate new ways of tracking space debris.
The mission is Rocket Lab’s second for 2019 and took the total number of satellites deployed to orbit by the company to 28. The DoD Space Test Program, under Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center, procured the STP-27RD mission in partnership with Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) as part of the Rapid Agile Launch Initiative. This initiative leveraged Other Transaction (OT) authority to competitively rapidly award DoD launch service contracts with non-traditional, commercial small launch companies.
“It’s a testament to our team and mission partners that Electron has placed another three satellites in orbit, just weeks after our flawless mission for DARPA,” says Rocket Lab Founder and CEO Peter Beck. “We’re proud to have delivered 100% mission success for the launch procured by the Department of Defense’s Rapid Agile Launch Initiative, proving once again Rocket Lab’s ability to provide responsive and streamlined space access.”
Approximately 54 minutes after lift-off, the Electron launch vehicle’s Kick Stage successfully deployed the three payloads to their designated orbits. The Space Plug and Play Architecture Research CubeSat-1 (SPARC-1) mission, sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV), is a joint Swedish-United States experiment to explore technology developments in avionics miniaturization, software defined radio systems, and space situational awareness (SSA). The Falcon Orbital Debris Experiment (Falcon ODE), sponsored by the United States Air Force Academy, will evaluate ground-based tracking of space objects. Harbinger, a commercial small satellite built by York Space Systems and sponsored by the U.S Army, will demonstrate the ability of an experimental commercial system to meet DoD space capability requirements.
The STP-27RD mission carried Rocket Lab’s heaviest payload to date, with the three satellites weighing in at around 180 kg. The highly experienced Rocket Lab team have now delivered 28 satellites into orbit, enabling operations in space debris mitigation, Earth observation, ship and airplane tracking and radio communications. Rocket Lab’s manifest is booked with monthly launches for the remainder of 2019 for a range of commercial and U.S. Government customers. Rocket Lab will scale to a launch every two weeks by the end of the year. The majority of launches in 2019 are scheduled to lift-off from Launch Complex 1, with the first mission from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2 at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia scheduled for late 2019.
For real-time updates and upcoming mission announcements, follow Rocket Lab on Twitter @RocketLab.
Rocket Lab becomes an integrated spacecraft builder and launch provider, enabling small satellite operators to focus on delivering data and services from space
Space Symposium, Colorado Springs. April 8, 2019 – U.S. small satellite launch company Rocket Lab has announced the next evolution of its mission services; the in-house designed and built Photon™ satellite platform.
As the global leader in small satellite launch, Rocket Lab now delivers an integrated spacecraft build and launch service. The end-to-end mission solution enables small satellite customers to focus on delivering their service from orbit and generating revenue, rather than building their own satellite hardware.
Rocket Lab Founder and Chief Executive Officer Peter Beck says Photon was designed to be an integrated part of the Rocket Lab mission experience from the very inception of the Electron launch vehicle program.
“Small satellite operators want to focus on providing data or services from space, but building satellite hardware is a significant barrier to achieving this. The time, resources and expertise required to build hardware can draw small satellite operators away from their core purpose, delaying their path to orbit and revenue,” he says. “As the turn-key solution for complete small satellite missions, Rocket Lab brings space within easy reach. We enable our customers to focus on their payload and mission – we look after the rest.”
With an available payload mass of up to 170 kg*, Photon is designed for a range of Low Earth Orbit missions, including technology demonstrations, risk reduction pathfinders, constellations and hosted payloads. Developed as a configurable platform, Photon is ideal for existing and emerging applications such as communications, remote sensing, and Internet of Things (IoT).
Photon is a highly-advanced evolution of the Electron launch vehicle’s Kick Stage, which has been successfully deployed on four orbital Electron missions. Operating a high-powered iteration of the flight-proven 3D printed Curie® propulsion system, Photon can support missions with an orbital life span of up to five years. Photon also includes an S-band communication system, a high-performance attitude control system, and a robust avionics suite.
To meet the growing demand for tailored small spacecraft with dependable fast delivery, Rocket Lab has drawn on its proven heritage of rapidly scaling production with Electron launch vehicle program. Manufactured at Rocket Lab’s Huntington Beach, California headquarters, a Photon spacecraft can be launched on Electron in as little as four months from order to orbit.
The first operational Photon will be launched from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in Q4 2019, with customer missions in active planning for 2020.
Rocket Lab to launch three R&D satellites for the U.S. Air Force
The mission has been procured by the Space Test Program in partnership with Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) as part of its Rapid Agile Launch Initiative.
Huntington Beach, California. Thursday 4 April, 2019 – Small satellite launch company Rocket Lab announced today that it will launch experimental research and development (R&D) satellites for the U.S. Air Force in April. The mission will lift-off from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, carrying three R&D spacecraft to Low-Earth Orbit aboard an Electron launch vehicle. The launch will be Rocket Lab’s second orbital mission of 2019, and fifth orbital mission overall.
The US Space Test Program procured the mission in partnership with Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) as part of the Rapid Agile Launch Initiative. This initiative leveraged DIU’s knowledge of commercial technology companies, enabling the government to competitively and rapidly award launch service contracts with non-traditional, venture-class launch providers.
“We are incredibly proud that Rocket Lab has been selected by the Space Test Program to launch advanced space technologies that accelerate operational space capabilities,” says Rocket Lab’s Senior Vice President of Launch Services, Lars Hoffman. “Rocket Lab’s streamlined acquisition processes, coupled with our proven reliably and performance, made Electron the perfect launch vehicle for this mission. We look forward to working with our mission partners to continue offering world-leading access to space.”
The satellites onboard the mission will represent Rocket Lab’s heaviest launch to date, with the total payload weighing in at more than 180 kg. The three experiments onboard will demonstrate advanced space technologies and accelerate the fielding of future operational space capabilities. The Space Plug and Play Architecture Research CubeSat-1 (SPARC-1) mission, sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV), is a joint Swedish-United States experiment to explore technology developments in avionics miniaturization, software defined radio systems, and space situational awareness (SSA). The Falcon Orbital Debris Experiment (Falcon ODE), sponsored by the United States Air Force Academy, will evaluate ground-based tracking of space objects. Harbinger, a commercial small satellite built by York Space Systems, will demonstrate the ability of an experimental commercial system to meet US Government space capability requirements.
With proven flight heritage from multiple orbital missions, Rocket Lab is the only fully commercial small satellite launch service provider in operation. The experienced Rocket Lab team has delivered 25 satellites to orbit to date, and the company is producing an Electron rocket every 30 days to meet a continued monthly launch cadence in 2019, scaling to launches every two weeks next year.
Each individual Electron rocket is given a unique name that reflects the mission. The Electron for this flight is called "That's a Funny Looking Cactus" to reflect Space Test Program's base in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Rocket Lab successfully launches R3D2 satellite for DARPA
The launch marks Rocket Lab’s 25th satellite deployed to orbit, continuing the company’s mission success heritage
Huntington Beach, California – March 28, 2019 – A Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle successfully lifted off from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 23:27, March 28th UTC (12:27, 29 March NZDT). The mission launched a prototype reflect array antenna to orbit for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
“Congratulations to our dedicated team for delivering another important and innovative asset to space – on time and on target. The unique requirements of this mission made Electron the perfect launch vehicle to lift R3D2 as a dedicated payload to a highly precise orbit,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. “Thank you to our mission partners. We look forward to continuing to provide frequent, reliable and rapidly-acquired launch services for innovative small satellites.”
Rocket Lab was selected for the launch because of the company’s proven mission heritage and its ability support rapid acquisition of small satellite launch capabilities. Due to Rocket Lab’s streamlined acquisition practices, DARPA’s R3D2 mission was launched just over 18 months from conception – a significant reduction in traditional government launch acquisition timeframes.
With proven flight heritage from four orbital missions, Rocket Lab is the only fully commercial small satellite launch service provider in operation. The experienced Rocket Lab team has delivered 25 satellites to orbit, including innovative new space technologies that provide vital capabilities such as weather monitoring, Earth observation and Internet of Things connectivity. The R3D2 mission was Rocket Lab’s first of 2019, as the company heads into a busy year of launches booked for lift-off every four weeks. To support the small satellite industry’s highest launch cadence, Rocket Lab is currently producing one Electron launch vehicle every 30 days across its Huntington Beach, California, and Auckland, New Zealand, production facilities.
For real-time updates and upcoming mission announcements, follow Rocket Lab on Twitter @RocketLab.
About the DARPA R3D2 payload:
DARPA’s R3D2 (Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration) spacecraft intends to space-qualify a prototype reflect array antenna to improve radio communications in small spacecraft. The 150kg spacecraft carried an antenna, made of a tissue-thin Kapton membrane, designed to pack tightly inside the small satellite for stowage during launch, before deploying to its full size of 2.25 meters in diameter in low Earth orbit. The design is intended to provide significant capability, typical of large spacecraft, in a much smaller package. The mission could lay the groundwork for a space-based internet by helping to validate emerging concepts for a resilient sensor and data transport layer in low Earth orbit – a capability that does not exist today.
The R3D2 mission was launched on an Electron launch vehicle, comprised of two fully carbon-composite stages, powered by a total of ten 3D printed and electric pump-fed Rutherford engines, designed and built in house by Rocket Lab at the company’s headquarters in Huntington Beach, California. The R3D2 payload was deployed to a circular orbit by Rocket Lab’s unique Kick Stage, an additional stage designed for precise orbital deployment and equipped with the ability to deorbit itself upon mission completion to leave no orbital debris behind.
Rocket Lab to launch dedicated Electron mission for DARPA
The mission intends to space-qualify a new membrane reflect-array antenna and highlights the Electron rocket’s suitability as a responsive, flexible and rapidly-acquired launch service for commercial and government missions alike
Huntington Beach, California. January 22, 2019 – Small satellite launch company Rocket Lab announced today that its first mission of 2019 will be a dedicated launch of a 150kg satellite for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The mission highlights US Government demand for the type of responsive, ultra-flexible and rapidly acquired launch service that characterizes the Rocket Lab launch experience on Electron.
DARPA’s Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration (R3D2) mission is scheduled for launch in late February and intends to space-qualify a prototype reflect array antenna to improve radio communications in small spacecraft. The antenna, made of a tissue-thin Kapton membrane, packs tightly inside the small satellite for stowage during launch, before deploying to its full size of 2.25 meters in diameter once it reaches low Earth orbit. This high compaction ratio enables larger antennas in smaller satellites, enabling satellite owners to take advantage of volume-limited launch opportunities while still providing significant capability. The mission could help validate emerging concepts for a resilient sensor and data transport layer in low Earth orbit – a capability that does not exist today, but one which could revolutionize global communications by laying the groundwork for a space-based internet.
“Rapid acquisition of small satellite launch capabilities is increasingly important to US Government organizations like DARPA. The ability to rapidly space-qualify new technology and deploy space-based assets with confidence on short notice is a service that didn’t exist for dedicated small satellites until now,” says Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. “We’re honored to provide Electron’s agile and flexible launch service to DARPA and we look forward to delivering the innovative R3D2 payload to orbit.”
The mission, the first of monthly Electron launches this year, will lift-off from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Māhia Peninsula of New Zealand. To ensure precise insertion and responsible orbital deployment, the R3D2 payload will be deployed via the Electron Kick Stage to a circular orbit. Using this unique launch method, Electron’s second stage is left in a highly elliptical orbit where the stage is subject to significant atmospheric drag, causing it to de-orbit and burn up to nothing in a reduced time frame. The Kick Stage is then used to deploy the satellite payload to a precise orbit, following which the Kick Stage can perform a de-orbit burn to speed up its re-entry, leaving no orbital debris behind in space.
The Rocket Lab Electron launch experience is the world’s first customized small satellite launch service. With the choice of two Rocket Lab launch sites, and the ability to rapidly launch to orbit as frequently as every 72 hours, each mission is tailored to the customer requirements. For the first time, small satellite customers are enjoying unmatched flexibility, responsiveness and control over their own orbit.
Rocket Lab appoints Lars Hoffman as Senior Vice President – Global Launch Services
The former SpaceX executive joins Rocket Lab’s leadership team, strengthening the industry’s premium dedicated small satellite launch experience
Huntington Beach, California – January 8, 2019: Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab has appointed Lars Hoffman to the role of Senior Vice President (SVP) – Global Launch Services, as the company enters its second year of commercial orbital launches.
In his role as SVP – Global Launch Services, Mr. Hoffman will lead Rocket Lab’s sales, business development and customer experience teams to continue delivering frequent, reliable and tailored launch services to the small satellite market.
Mr. Hoffman brings with him more than 30 years of experience in national security and aerospace, following a distinguished US Air Force career and corporate executive roles in the commercial space sector. Mr. Hoffman joins Rocket Lab from his most recent role at SpaceX, where he was responsible for National Security Space (NSS) strategy and business development as Senior Director of Government Sales.
The appointment comes as Rocket Lab begins its busiest launch year yet, with monthly orbital missions scheduled across the company’s two private launch pads in Māhia, New Zealand and Virginia, USA.
“Lars is a proven leader who will guide the Rocket Lab Launch Services team as they continue to deliver the premium launch service that the small satellite industry enjoys on Electron,” says Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. “Rocket Lab has not only revolutionized the way we build and launch rockets, but we’ve also streamlined the process for procuring launch services by creating an unrivalled launch experience that is rapid, agile and tailored to customer requirements. Lars’ wealth of industry experience will play a key role in continuing to provide Rocket Lab customers with premium service and an unparalleled ride to orbit, on their terms and time frames.”
Joining the team at Rocket Lab’s Huntington Beach headquarters this week, Mr. Hoffman says, "I’m excited to join the Rocket Lab team and I look forward to providing our customers with an outstanding launch experience from beginning to end.”
Auckland, New Zealand – 17 December, 2018: Rocket Lab has today awarded Wairoa College student Mya Mataki-Wilson the 2018 Rocket Lab scholarship, giving her a head-start in her future engineering career.
Now in its second year, the annual Rocket Lab scholarship encourages students from Māhia and the wider Wairoa District in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, to pursue tertiary study in science, technology and engineering disciplines. The scholarship covers up to $20,000 of tertiary education fees for up to four years of study, and includes hands-on mentorship from Rocket Lab.
After a rigorous selection process, Miss Mataki-Wilson was chosen from a pool of talented candidates as this year’s scholarship recipient after demonstrating her passion for engineering and problem-solving.
Miss Mataki-Wilson will begin her tertiary studies at the University of Auckland in 2019, where she plans to do a conjoint degree, studying a Bachelor of Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts. The 17-year-old says she eventually wants to be a civil, or chemical and bioprocess engineer.
Miss Mataki-Wilson says she’s thrilled to be awarded the scholarship and says it will give her the freedom to focus entirely on her studies.
“The scholarship will be a huge help. It will take the financial stress away and allow me to concentrate on my study, putting me in a strong position for my future, she says.
“I loved school-work, especially science and maths, so I’m very much looking forward to broadening my skill set at university. The engineering degree will be a great match for me.”
Rocket Lab Founder and Chief Executive Peter Beck says, “It’s so important we invest in our next generation of innovators and technology leaders. Growing a talented pool of STEM professionals is something I’m passionate about. Rocket Lab is honoured to support dedicated students, like Mya, while they develop their skills for the future.”
The Rocket Lab scholarship was founded in 2017 to directly support the community surrounding Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 on the Māhia Peninsula. It is designed to foster continued excellence and innovation amongst New Zealand’s future science, technology, mathematics and engineering leaders. Applications for the annual Rocket Lab scholarship open each year in October at www.rocketlabusa.com
Rocket Lab successfully launches NASA CubeSats to orbit on first ever Venture Class Launch Services mission
The mission follows just five weeks after the successful ‘It’s Business Time’ launch in November, and marks Rocket Lab’s third orbital launch for 2018
Huntington Beach, California – December 16, 2018 – US small satellite launch company Rocket Lab has launched its third orbital mission of 2018, successfully deploying satellites to orbit for NASA. The mission, designated Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa)-19 , took place just over a month after Rocket Lab’s last successful orbital launch, ‘It’s Business Time.’ Rocket Lab has launched a total of 24 satellites to orbit in 2018.
On Sunday, December 16, 2018 UTC, Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle successfully lifted off at 06:33 UTC (19:33 NZDT) from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula. After being launched to an elliptical orbit, Electron’s Curie engine-powered kick stage separated from the vehicle’s second stage before circularizing to a 500x500 km orbit at an 85 degree inclination. By 56 minutes into the mission, the 13 satellites on board were individually deployed to their precise, designated orbits.
Until now, launch opportunities for small satellites have mostly been limited to rideshare-type arrangements, flying only when space is available on large launch vehicles. This mission, awarded under a Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) Agreement, marks the first time NASA CubeSats received a dedicated ride to orbit on a commercial launch vehicle. VCLS is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program headquartered at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck says the ELaNa-19 mission represents a forward-thinking approach from NASA to acquiring launch services and recognizes the increasingly significant role small satellites are playing in exploration, technology demonstration, research and education.
“The ELaNa-19 mission was a significant one for NASA, the Rocket Lab team and the small satellite industry overall. To launch two missions just five weeks apart, and in the first year of orbital flights, is unprecedented. It’s exactly what the small satellite industry desperately needs, and Rocket Lab is proud to be delivering it. Regular and reliable launch is now a reality for small satellites. The wait is over,” says Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck. “We’re providing small satellite customers with more control than they’ve ever had, enabling them to launch on their own schedule, to precise orbits, as frequently as they need to.”
NASA ELaNa-19 Mission Manager Justin Treptow adds, “The CubeSats of ELaNa-19 represent a large variety of scientific objectives and technology demonstrations. With this the first launch of a Venture Class Launch Service on the Rocket Lab Electron, NASA now has an option to match our small satellite missions with a dedicated small launch vehicle to place these satellites in an optimal orbit to achieve big results.”
BLOG: The kick stage is a nimble but powerful extra stage on Electron, designed to circularize the orbits of small satellites. It takes small satellites exactly where they want to go, offering unmatched precision and flexibility for orbital deployment.
The kick stage is powered by the Curie engine, named after the physicist and chemist Marie Curie, and is developed and manufactured in-house by Rocket Lab. Much like Rocket Lab's Rutherford engine, the Curie engine employs 3D printing (additive manufacturing) techniques for speedy production.
After Electron’s second stage takes the kick stage to an elliptical orbit, the kick stage separates and begins a coast phase while carrying its small satellite payload. Once reaching apogee, the highest point in the elliptical orbit, the Curie engine ignites. From here, the Curie engine raises the perigee, the lowest point in the orbit, until the kick stage is orbiting the Earth in a circle rather than an ellipse.
Once in this circular orbit, the kick stage has a special way of deploying multiple satellites. It employs a cold gas reaction control system to precisely point itself to deploy satellites, and the Curie engine can be reignited multiple times to move to a different position. This means small satellites can go to independent, yet highly precise, orbits even as part of rideshare missions where they hitch a ride along with other satellites. This method also avoids the risk of recontact between satellites on deployment, as we can control exactly when and where each satellite is released. Essentially, they won’t bump into each other as they are released.
After all payloads are deployed, the kick stage has the ability to reorient itself and reignite the Curie engine one last time to perform a deorbit manoeuvre. This drastically lowers the kick stage’s orbit, enabling it to re-enter the atmosphere and burn up without a trace once its work in space is done.
Now, remember the second stage that was left in an elliptical orbit before the kick stage separated? It too is deorbited quickly and burned up, thanks to experiencing significant drag at the lowest point of its orbit where it dips into the Earth’s atmosphere. Rocket Lab designed this system specifically to leave nothing in orbit but the satellites we launch. We’re determined to be part of the solution for sustainability and orbital debris reduction in space.