Rocket Lab Reschedules BlackSky Mission

Rocket Lab calls Electron the world’s first full-carbon composite orbital launch vehicle.

Long Beach-based Rocket Lab USA Inc. has scheduled two dedicated launches for Seattle-based BlackSky Global in November, the company announced Oct. 11.
A two-week window is planned for the first launch — from Nov. 11 to Nov. 24 —when its Electron rocket will deploy two satellites into low-Earth orbit. The company aims to deploy two more satellites in the second launch for the mission after Nov. 27.

Both launches are scheduled to take place at the Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula.

“The speed to space (that) Electron provides our customers is unmatched in the dedicated small-launch industry, and we’re thrilled to be delivering a launch service that provides assurance for BlackSky to scale their constellation and services with confidence,” Rocket Lab founder and Chief Executive Peter Beck said in a statement.
The launch agreement with satellite imaging company BlackSky was first signed in March. Financial details of the agreement were not released.

Both launches are part of a mission titled Love At First Insight that will carry a total of six high-resolution, multispectral satellites into low-Earth orbit for BlackSky.
A third launch is planned for this mission, but the time frame has not yet been announced.

The mission will expand BlackSky’s network in space and offer real-time geospatial intelligence and monitoring services. Rocket Lab first sent two satellites into orbit for BlackSky on its March rideshare mission, called They Go Up So Fast.
Rocket Lab originally scheduled all three launches to take place in September and October.

The company said in its announcement that the contract represents the largest number of satellites BlackSky has committed to a single launch provider to date. Following the two launches for the mission, Rocket Lab will have deployed 110 satellites in its history.

“We’ve been partnering strongly with Rocket Lab over the past several months to gain high confidence in a launch campaign that will increase the capacity of our space network,” Brian O’Toole, BlackSky chief executive, said in a statement announcing the original launches in August.

Along with scheduling its busy launch docket for the rest of the year, Rocket Lab also recently scored several contracts.

On Oct. 6, the company announced it was selected to launch NASA’s Advanced Composite Solar Sail System, or ACS3, using the Electron rocket. The Solar Sail will launch as part of a rideshare mission scheduled to take off from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in mid-2022.

The Solar Sail launch is a technology demonstration of NASA technology that uses sunlight for propulsion rather than conventional rocket propellant.
The Solar Sail requires a higher altitude than other payloads on the mission, so the Electron will use its Kick Stage, which has been used across 18 missions thus far, to perform another burn and raise the orbit.

“It seems fitting to launch NASA’s Advanced Composite Solar Sail System on Electron, the world’s first full-carbon composite orbital launch vehicle,” Beck said in a statement. “We’re excited to see composites used yet again to unlock new capabilities in space.”

Rocket Lab also inked launch contracts with Japanese satellite company Astroscale Japan Inc. and French internet provider Kinéis in September.

For Kinéis, Rocket Lab will deploy 25 internet-of-things satellites across five dedicated missions using the Electron rocket. For Astroscale, the company will carry its space debris-removal satellite into orbit.
Both missions are anticipated to take off from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand in 2023.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.