Rocket Lab announced a new agreement to launch fifteen satellites for HawkEye 360, a Virginia-based geospatial analytics company. The first of these mission, which will be a rideshare mission, is expected to launch no earlier than December 2022, and will be the company’s first launch from the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia.
Rocket Lab recently made the news for breaking ground on a new Virginia facility dedicated to its next rocket, Neutron. But well before Neutron will have its inaugural launch, the company’s existing Electron rocket will make its way to the United States.
Back in 2018, the company selected Wallops Flight Facility, in Virginia, for a US launch site and shorlty after it broke ground.
Almost two years later (and two years ago) in April 2020, the company rolled out an Electron rocket to the US launch pad in anticipation of a launch NET Q3 2020. In September of that year, the company completed a dress rehearsal in anticipation of the company’s inaugural launch from US soil, set to be a dedicated launch for the United States Space Force. The teams were waiting on certification of their autonomous flight termiantion system.
The launch team then flowed through the integrated countdown to T-0 to carry out the same operations they will undertake on launch day. Before a launch window can be set, NASA is conducting the final development and certification of its Autonomous Flight Termination System (AFTS) software for the mission. This flight will be the first time an AFTS has been has flown from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and represents a valuable new capability for the spaceport.
It has been quite a while, and in the time since, Rocket Lab has made considerable progress on its reusability efforts and will attempt to catch the first stage from their next launch from a helicopter.
In the company’s latest press release, the company set a date for their first US launch – NET December 2022.
Encouraged by NASA’s recent progress in certifying its Autonomous Flight Termination Unit (NAFTU) software, which is required to enable Electron launches from Virginia, Rocket Lab has scheduled the mission from Launch Complex 2 no earlier than December 2022.
Overall, the company will launch 15 satellites for HawkEye 360. The first launch, the inaugural US launch, will be a rideshare mission carrying three satellites from the company. The remaining twlelve satellites will be split between two dedicated Electron missions “between late 2022 and 2024.”
I’m thrilled to welcome HawkEye 360 onto Electron’s manifest and especially looking forward to launching our inaugural mission from Launch Complex 2 in Virginia. Operating multiple Electron pads across both hemispheres opens up incredible flexibility for our customers and delivers assured access to space, something we know is becoming increasingly critical as launch availability wanes worldwide. This contract also demonstrates continued execution on our vertical integration strategy, in this case bringing reliable launch and flight proven separation systems under one roof to streamline the integration and launch process for HawkEye 360.Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck