|(March 27, 2021, 6:55 p.m.) -- Long Beach-HQ'd Rocket Lab (3881 McGowen St in ELB's Douglas Park) has successfully launched its 19th mission orbiting six spacecraft for several government and commercial customers AND deployed Rocket Labís latest in-house manufactured Photon spacecraft (ahead of the upcoming CAPSTONE mission to the Moon for NASA).AND the firm announced a contract to launch multiple missions to low Earth orbit for BlackSky, which provides real-time geospatial intelligence and global monitoring services.
In a release, Rocket Lab says the March 23 lift off of its Electron rocket from its Launch Complex 1 on New Zealandís Mahia Peninsula (March 22, 2021 22:30 UTC) successfully deployed an Earth-observation satellite for BlackSky Global through Spaceflight Inc; two Internet of Things (IoT) nanosatellites for Australian commercial operators Fleet Space and Myriota. A test satellite built by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra Space in collaboration with the Royal Australian Air Force; a weather monitoring CubeSat for Care Weather Technologies; and a technology demonstrator for the U.S. Armyís Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC). Rocket Lab has now put 104 satellites into orbit. .
Following this payload, the rocket's Kick Stage is being reconfigured to Photon, Rocket Labís in-house built spacecraft, says the company release. "Photon Pathstone is equipped with new power management, thermal control, and attitude control subsystems that will be utilized for the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon for NASA later this year. Photon Pathstone is also testing on orbit new deep-space radio capability, an upgraded RCS (reaction control system), and sun sensors and star trackers."
Less than 72 hours later, Rocket Lab announced a multi-launch agreement with launch services provider Spaceflight Inc., that will "manage the integration and launch services for BlackSky, includes the launch of nine BlackSky satellites across five Electron missions this year," a Rocket Lab release said. .
Rocket Lab is scheduled later this year for a dedicated mission for the U.S. Space Force, a mission to the Moon for NASA, and launches for a range of commercial customers, a company release says. "Rocket Labís Electron launch vehicle is the second most frequently launched U.S. rocket annually since 2019, having deployed more than 100 satellites to space for commercial and government customers across 17 orbital missions. Electron has become a workhorse launch vehicle for the small satellite industry and provides uniquely targeted access to orbit for constellation satellites."
The SpacFlight launch agreement follows Rocklet Lab's March 1 announcement that it has entered into a merger agreement with Vector Acquisition Corporation (a special purpose acquisition company backed by investor Vector Capital) "that will result in Rocket Lab becoming a publicly traded company in a transaction the firm says is estimated to be completed in Q2 2021 and, at that time, Vector will change its name to Rocket Lab USA, Inc. and is expected to trade on the Nasdaq.
Nearby Rocket Lab's facility in ELB's Douglas Park is Virgin Orbit (4022 Conant St.) which prepares satellites for launch using a carrier jet aircraft ("Cosmic Girl.") The firm made first successful launch using this system, orbiting multiple satellites on Jan. 17, 2021.
And in the ELB industrial park behind LB's Health Dept. (3500 E. Burnett), Relativity Space is pursuing a potentially game changing development: building a printed rocket. In mid-March, Relativity Space announced that the Department of Defense's Defense Innovation Unit picked Relativity for DoD's Space Test Program to launch a small U.S. military payload to orbit in 2023 using a 3D-printed rocket.
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