Update as of 5:50 p.m. ET. The Missile Lab reports that tonight at the T-12 minute mark, the launch is aborted due to high upper level winds. Tonight’s 2-hour start window opens at 6pm and closes at 8pm.
After years of launching rockets from New Zealand, commercial space company Rocket Lab is ready for its US launch debut.
The California rocket laboratory 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 Electron rocket to launch three HawkEye 360 satellites into orbit, will lift off in a two-hour window starting at 6:00 p.m. EST (2300 GMT), and you can watch it live for free in the window above. Rocket Lab will webcast its launch about 40 minutes before liftoff.
“Obviously, this is a significant milestone for Rocket Lab,” CEO Peter Beck told reporters at an upfront briefing on Dec. 14. “It’s great to be in this moment.” The rocket lab originally intended to launch on Dec. 13, but pushed back the flight to complete additional inspections, weather and final flight paperwork.
Related to: Rocket Lab’s 1st US launch can be seen along the East Coast on December 18th
Launch visibility of the rocket lab.
Rocket Lab’s 1st US launch could be seen by millions along the East Coast. Here’s where and when to look. If you see one, let us know with photos and comments [email protected]!
Sunday’s launch, dubbed “Virginia Is For Launch Lovers” (after the state’s tourism slogan, “Virginia Is For Lovers”), will mark the beginning of a new era of flexibility for Rocket Lab as it aims to serve launch customers around the world. . The company worked with NASA at Wallops, as well as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Space Shuttle, which oversees commercial launches from Wallops, to develop the new platform.
So far, Rocket Lab has used two of its pads at its Launch Complex 1 on the coast of Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand to conduct flights. The U.S. launch pad will allow the company to launch missions for customers who require a U.S. launch, such as government or military customers. Beck said:
Rocket Lab opened its Launch Complex 2 in 2019 and originally planned to launch its first mission from there in 2020. But that first flight was delayed by two years because of delays in NASA developing a new autonomous flight termination system needed for the safety system. Electron launches from Wallops Flight Facility. Rocket Lab uses a version of NASA’s autonomous flight termination system, which the company calls Pegasus, for its Electronic Flight.
David Pierce, director of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, told reporters that the delay was due to bugs found in NASA’s system software and testing by the space agency, the US Space Force and the Federal Aviation Administration. NASA and the FAA completed their certification of the system ahead of Sunday’s launch attempt, and signed the final launch documents on Saturday (Dec. 17).
“It’s been nothing short of a Herculean effort to get us to this point, which I view as a turning point in the launch range, not only in Wallops, but in the United States,” Pierce said.
Rocket Lab’s Virginia Is For Launch Lovers mission is the first of three flights by Virginia-based company HawkEye 360, which is building a constellation of small satellites for radio frequency surveillance. Under the multiple launch agreement that HawkEye 360 struck in April, Rocket Lab will launch 15 of the small satellites into orbit by 2024.
“These missions will add to HawkEye 360’s constellation of RF monitoring satellites, enabling the company to better provide accurate mapping of RF emissions anywhere in the world,” Rocket Lab wrote in the mission description. (opens in new tab).
We’re celebrating some big firsts for Electron this week: ✅ First mission from US soil ✅ First mission for @hawkeye360 ✅ First mission with Autonomous Flight Termination System for launch enthusiasts at WallopsVirginia flying NET December 15th : Stay tuned for weather updates. pic.twitter.com/P7Dlq0X01hDecember 13, 2022
Rocket Lab ultimately aims to launch one Electron mission per month from its Wallops platform. 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 launch team has already learned from its first mission development at Wallops (rocket components are shipped in a container to the site) and that the basics of making a rocket on the new US platform will carry over to the new Neutron. the program. Rocket Lab is also building a Neutron Rocket Production Facility in Virginia.
“I think, you know, learned a lot from it,” Beck said. “The next few launches will be significantly more primitive.”
But for now, he added, the Electron needs to make its first flight.
“The rocket is ready and it’s on the pad,” Beck said. “The team is ready and it’s time to fly.”