After several delays at the end of 2022, it appears a new rocket is on-schedule to be launched from Virginia in the coming weeks; the launch could be visible across the Mid Atlantic from New Jersey and New York to North and South Carolina. The launch, taking place at the NASA Wallops Spaceport, will send a Rocket Lab rocket to space; it’ll be Rocket Lab’s first launch in the United States.
Right now, the historic launch is scheduled for Monday, January 23; the launch window for the mission is 6 pm – 8 pm and the rocket can launch at anytime within that window. Additional back-up dates have also been decided on should weather or other conditions interfere with the launch on the 23rd.
Space company Rocket Lab continues to prepare to launch their very first rocket from the NASA Wallops Spaceport in Virginia. The launch, originally set for December 9, 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.
Rocket Lab attempted to launch this rocket in December, but attempts on December 7, 9, 13, 15, 16, and 18 failed primarily due to weather-related issues.
Rocket Lab isn’t the only company launching from NASA Wallops this year. In March, Northrop Grumman plans to launch a larger Antares rocket. The Antares rocket will launch the 20th Cygnus cargo craft to the International Space Station (ISS.)