Rocket Lab USA, Inc, a leading launch and space systems company, successfully launched its 33rd Electron rocket and first mission from Virginia. The “Virginia is for Launch Lovers” mission lifted off at 18:00 EST on January 24th from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2 (LC-2) at Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport within NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The mission deployed three satellites to a 550km orbit for leading radio frequency geospatial analytics provider HawkEye 360. Rocket Lab has now successfully deployed a total of 155 satellites to orbit from the Company’s three launch pads across the U.S. and New Zealand.
“This also marks our first launch in our home state of Virginia, making today’s success even more meaningful. We look forward to a fruitful partnership with Rocket Lab and Virginia Space in the months and years ahead.”
The successful launch from LC-2 marks the beginning of a new era of responsive launch capability for small satellites from U.S. soil. Built with support from Virginia Space, the Commonwealth of Virginia and NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2 is designed to serve the responsive space needs of commercial, civil, defense, and national security customers, supporting up to 12 missions per year. Combined with Rocket Lab’s private Launch Complex 1 site in New Zealand, the Company’s launch sites can support more than 130 launch opportunities every year, delivering flexibility and rapid launch capability for customers.
“Electron is already the leading small orbital rocket globally, and today’s perfect mission from a new pad is testament to our team’s unrelenting commitment to mission success,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. “After our busiest launch year yet in 2022 with nine successful missions, what better way to kick off the new year than by launching Virginia-built spacecraft from a Virginia launch site, enabled by our rapidly growing Virginia-based team. This mission has been a real team effort. Thanks to the consistent support of NASA, Virginia Space, the FAA, the Commonwealth and our mission partner HawkEye 360, Rocket Lab is proud to bring a reliable and responsive new launch capability to Virginia’s Eastern Shore.”
“We are grateful to share in the success of today’s launch. Our sixth trio of satellites and our first mid-latitude satellite cluster will broaden the scope of our geospatial insights for our partners around the world,” said HawkEye 360 CEO, John Serafini. “This also marks our first launch in our home state of Virginia, making today’s success even more meaningful. We look forward to a fruitful partnership with Rocket Lab and Virginia Space in the months and years ahead.”
The launch of Electron from the NASA-controlled Wallops Flight Facility also marked the introduction of the agency’s autonomous flight termination capability, known as NAFTU (NASA Autonomous Flight Termination Unit). While Rocket Lab has successfully flown its own autonomous system on Electron missions since 2019, NASA developed NAFTU in conjunction with this launch to provide a common system for flight termination for a wide array of launch vehicles at any launch range. Autonomous flight termination capability now being in operation at Wallops can provide faster and cheaper access to space for small satellites by enabling wider launch windows, smaller launch safety corridors, and reduced reliance on ground-based systems.