Rocket Lab had a spectacular launch from the NASA Wallops Spaceport on the Virginia Coast this evening, successfully sending their Electron rocket on its inaugural mission from the Mid Atlantic. This launch successfully sent Hawkeye 360 Cluster satellites into orbit, making tonight’s mission a success after many failed attempts at the end of 2022 due to poor weather or operational challenges. The rocket lifted-off at the top of a 6:00 pm launch window that was open this evening.
The launch, originally set for December 9, 2022, had a mission name of “Virginia is for Launch Lovers.” This mission deployed radio frequency monitoring satellites for HawkEye 360.
The 59-foot-tall Electron rocket lifted 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 last 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 was 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.