Rocket Lab has successfully launched its eighth mission, an Electron rocket rideshare flight carrying four satellites to orbit for various clients. The Electron launched from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand at 12:12 AM NZST (8:12 AM ET). This was its second attempt, after a scrub last week due to adverse weather conditions on the launch range.
On board, it carried a rideshare mission from launch services provider Spaceflight, which works to bring together payloads to simplify the process of finding a provider for smaller payloads and companies. The Spaceflight portion of the payload included three satellites: One satellite from BlackSky, which does Earth-imaging, and which will join its twin launched by Rocket Lab in June, already in low Earth orbit, to form a constellation.
Spaceflight’s cargo also included two experimental satellites launched by the U.S. Air Force Space Command, which will carry out tests of new technology related to spacecraft propulsion, power, communications and more, and which are designed to pave the way for deployment of related technologies in future spacecraft.
There’s also a fourth satellite on board, a CubeSat that will be the anchor for a new constellation aimed at providing up-to-date and accurate monitoring of maritime traffic, operated by UnseenLabs.
Rocket Lab’s New Zealand LC-1 will be joined by a second launch site in Virginia, to provide a U.S.-based complementary launch site for serving customers on a monthly basis.
The company also plans to eventually make its Electron rockets reusable, even though they were originally intended as fully expendable launch vehicles, using a recovery process that involves catching returning rockets mid-air after they re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. Today’s launch included a test of recovery equipment for the Electron’s first stage — an initial test that aimed to have the rocket land back in the Pacific via parachute, where Rocket Lab will attempt to pick it up from the ocean for potential refurbishment.