Rocket Lab is scheduled to launch its Virginia Is For Launches mission later this evening. It will be the company’s first launch from Launch Complex 2 at Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport within NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.
by Tim Sweezy
While this will not be the first launch of Rocket Lab’s Electron booster, it will be the first time it will launch in the United States. Previously, the company launched 32 Electron missions from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. The company touts the fact that Electron is “the most frequently launched small orbital rocket globally, and now with two launch complexes combined, Rocket Lab can support more than 130 launch opportunities every year.”
Launch Complex 2 was designed to support up to 12 missions per year. Rocket Lab operates an Integration and Control Facility within NASA’s Wallops Research Park, which includes state-of-the-art payload integration cleanrooms, vehicle processing facilities, and a mission control center. The upcoming launch pad and production complex for the company’s large reusable Neutron launch vehicle will also be located at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.
The rocket will reach supersonic speed within a minute of launch, with its main engine cutting off on the first stage around the two-and-a-half-minute mark. A few seconds later Stage 1 will separate from Stage 2, with Electron’s Stage 2 Rutherford engines igniting shortly after. The fairing will separate approximately three minutes post-launch, with the payload being deployed near the one-hour mark.
The mission scheduled for later today will deploy satellites for radio frequency geospatial analytics provider HawkEye 360. It will be the first of three missions for HawkEye 360 as part of a contract that will have Rocket Lab deliver a total of 15 satellites to low Earth orbit. The upcoming set of satellites will be the first to enter an inclined orbit, in order to give extra coverage to those in the mid-latitude regions of the globe.
While Rocket Lab has recovered the first stage of the two-stage Electron during previous missions, the company states there will be no recovery effort for Virginia Is For Launches mission. The first stage will instead plunge into the Atlantic Ocean.