Rocket Lab’s Electron Era Begins

February 6, 2023

Rocket Lab USA Inc. successfully launched its first Electron rocket mission from Virginia.

The “Virginia is for Launch Lovers” mission took off on the evening of Jan. 24 from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2 at Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located on NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, according to a release from the Long Beach-based launch and space systems company.

The mission deployed three satellites to a 550-kilometer orbit for leading radio frequency geospatial analytics provider HawkEye 360, which is based in Herndon, Virginia.

Rocket Lab founder and Chief Executive Peter Beck said the Electron rocket was the leading small orbital rocket globally and the launch from the new pad is a testament to its team’s commitment to mission success.

An Electron rocket rises from a launch pad in Virginia, marking Rocket Lab’s first launch from the U.S.

“After our busiest launch year yet in 2022 with nine successful missions, what better way to kick off the new year than by launching Virginia-built spacecraft from a Virginia launch site, enabled by our rapidly growing Virginia-based team,” Beck said in a statement.

Rocket Lab had been launching crafts from New Zealand for the past several years, for a total of 32 launches so far. The two launch complexes can support more than 130 Electron launch opportunities every year.

The “Virginia is for Launch Lovers” mission was the first of three Electron launches for HawkEye 360 in a contract that will see Rocket Lab deliver 15 satellites to low-Earth orbit this year and next year, the Rocket Lab release said.

John Serafini, chief executive of HawkEye 360, said that its sixth trio of satellites and its first mid-latitude satellite cluster will broaden the scope of its geospatial insights for the company’s partners around the world.

“This also marks our first launch in our home state of Virginia,” Serafini said.

The missions launched by Rocket Lab will grow HawkEye 360’s constellation, or group, of radio frequency-monitoring satellites, enabling the company to better deliver precise mapping of radio frequency emissions anywhere in the world, the company’s release said.

Ted Mercer, chief executive and executive director at Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, the owner and operator of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, said the organization was honored to support the launch of the historic mission.

In addition to being Rocket Lab’s first and only U.S. launch location, the company will also build rockets and process their payload in Accomack County – something that has never been done in the state before, Mercer said.

“Our partnership with Rocket Lab is a unique opportunity for the Commonwealth of Virginia to create long-term economic development opportunities in the form of high-paying jobs, launch viewing tourism, and construction of new facilities on the Eastern Shore,” Mercer added in a statement.

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