People eager to see a brand new rocket launch from a Mid Atlantic spaceport will need to wait a little longer; Rocket Lab and NASA have announced that due to unfavorable upper-level winds expected for the balance of its launch window, which originally stretched from December 9 to tomorrow, December 20, efforts to try again won’t happen until January sometime.
After being delayed due to weather conditions and the need to complete paperwork with the FAA, the rocket almost left the NASA Wallops facility last night. While it was prepared to launch from the Virginia spaceport , strong upper level winds forced the attempt to be scrubbed right before it’s 8pm launch window closed.
Now mission project managers will work with NASA and the FAA on new possible launch dates in January 2023 after the holidays.
When the launch does occur, it will send a Rocket Lab rocket to space, and people from as far as New York and New Jersey and North and South Carolina should be able to see it lifting up high in the sky. In addition to better views in Maryland and Delaware, visitors to NASA Wallop’s Visitor’s Center can also get a front-row view of the launch when it occurs.
The launch has a mission name of “Virginia is for Launch Lovers.” This mission will deploy radio frequency monitoring satellites for HawkEye 360. The 59-foot-tall Electron rocket will lift off from Launch Complex 2 at Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island. With this mission, NASA is helping foster a growing low-Earth space economy and continues Wallops’ 35-year history of support to the commercial launch industry.
Rocket Lab is an American aerospace manufacturer and launch service provider. Operating smaller, lightweight Electron orbital rockets, Rocket Lab is dedicated to providing access into space for small satellites and their manufacturers. Electron is a 2-stage launch vehicle which uses liquid fuel engines on both stages. Generally, the Electron craft is capable of delivering payloads of 150 kg to a 500 km Sun-synchronous orbit.
In the future, Rocket Lab hopes to launch their somewhat larger Neutron rocket from NASA Wallops too. In March of this year, Rocket Lab announced that Neutron will be built at a facility adjacent to Launch Complex 2 at the Virginia coast spaceport. When built, the 130 foot tall Neutron is expected to be capable of launching a 17,600 pound payload into low Earth orbit. Rocket Lab previously said they hope the first stage of the Neutron rocket will be reusable, with rockets returning to Earth on a floating platform located down-range off the Mid Atlantic coast.
While this will be Rocket Lab’s first launch at NASA Wallops and the first in the Northern Hemisphere, they are no stranger to launching rockets. Rocket Lab has successfully launched 32 Electron rockets from their New Zealand launch facility, known as Launch Complex 1 near Ahuriri Point at the southern tip of Māhia Peninsula, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.