Rocket Lab launches inaugural mission from U.S. soil

January 24 at 6:00 pm E.T. from LC-2 at MARS

Virginia is for Lovers. A slogan that turned fifty years old in 2019. In 1969 a copywriter named Robin McLaughlin who worked in the Richmond advertising agency Martin & Woltz came up with the slogan “Virginia is for history lovers”. But with beaches, mountains, hiking, and so much more the owners of the company shortened it to its simpler form. Though the first missile test launch from Wallops Island, VA happened in 1945 I doubt anyone thought “Virginia is for Missile Lovers” would stick. Now we’ve come back to an era where rocket launches are cool again and public interest is through the roof. So naturally a rocket company known for giving missions stylish fun name’s chose to go with “Virginia is for Launch Lovers” as the slogan for their first launch from U.S. soil. Adapting the slogan like Martin & Woltz intended over fifty-four years ago.

Rocket Lab, an established launch provider out of New Zealand has now thirty-two Electron missions under their belt as they come to America to make that thirty-three. This extensive launch heritage already makes Electron the most frequently launched small orbital rocket globally and now with a second launch complex in the states the company says they can support upwards of one-hundred-thirty launch opportunities every year. With Launch Complex 1 also known as Mahia Launch Complex close to Ahuriri Point at the Southern tip of the Mahia Peninsula on the East coast of New Zealand’s North Island it only makes sense for them to name their complex on Wallops Island Virginia LC-2. Construction began in February of 2019, with the site ready and able support launches just ten months later. With responsive launch capability from U.S. soil for government small satellites the ability to launch into precise orbits in a matter of hours, not months or years has become an increasingly important part of ensuring resilience in space. LC-2 supplements their existing site in NZ and will be the future home of a larger launch pad for the next generation Rocket Lab launch vehicle, the Neutron.

This mission, however, will deploy three satellites for leading radio frequency geospatial analytics provider HawkEye 360. The launch window was set following recent progress by NASA in certifying its Autonomous Flight Termination Unit or NAFTU software, which is required to enable Electron launches from Virginia.

HawkEye 360 satellites deliver a brand-new data layer which has never been available before commercially. That’s the precise mapping of radio frequency emissions. With the unique ability to identify and geolocate sources of radio frequencies from space they can reveal previously invisible knowledge about activities around the globe. Seeking to protect the common good, since wireless spectrums are an indispensable and scarce resource that is critical for consumer, civil government, and national and global security. HawkEye 360 radio frequency-centric solutions produce positive impacts across the globe as customers face challenges that require specialized answers. Many types of objects emit radio frequencies for vital functions such as communication, navigation, and operation and they have become the lifeblood of the modern, digital economy.

One of the most defining features of today’s world is invisible to the naked eye. Increasingly, the lifeblood of the modern, digital economy is carried by the electromagnetic spectrum. Many types of objects emit radio frequencies for vital functions such as communication, navigation, and operation. Through a first of its kind commercial satellite constellation, HawkEye 360 can identify, process, and geolocate a broad set of RF (radio frequency) signals and extract value from the data using proprietary algorithms, fusing it with other sources to create powerful analytical products that solve hard challenges to their global customer base.

Facing many challenges since trying to launch this first mission in the United States, Rocket Lab has shown the resolve needed to get their vehicle off the ground and deliver the payloads into orbit. In December of last year, the company saw a string of delays which went almost two weeks before the team decided to stand down for the holiday season and try again at a later date. A new date was set and then just twenty-four hours before launch they had to once again call off the launch due to foul weather making a successful launch attempt unlikely. But this day, January twenty-fourth the conditions were near perfect. The front which delayed the mission another twenty-four hours moved through and opened up the skies and calmed the winds.