Rocket Lab chooses December 7 for the first electronic rocket launch in the United States

The American space company, which organized all its takeoffs from New Zealand, has set a date for its first launch on American soil. rocket lab announcement(Opens in a new window) Wednesday that he plans to fly a electronic rocket(Opens in a new window) from its Wallops Island, Va. facility during a launch window that opens Dec. 7.

This mission named “Virginia is for Launch Lovers” in a nod to the state tourism slogan(Opens in a new window)–will deliver a set of Earth observation radio frequency satellites Hawkeye 360(Opens in a new window)a Herndon, Va., geoanalytics provider.

Rocket Lab, founded in New Zealand in 2006 but now based in Long Beach, California, has built a growing small satellite delivery business from Electron launched for the first time(Opens in a new window) (but failed to reach orbit) from New Zealand’s North Island in 2017.

This two-stage rocket, built with a carbon composite structure and capable of lifting 661 pounds into low Earth orbit, delivered 152 satellites(Opens in a new window) so far. The last mission was for the Swedish space agency and counted as the company’s ninth in 2022, putting Electron in second place(Opens in a new window) in the West after SpaceX’s Falcon 9 (50 launches this year, more than any other country) and the fourth in the world after China’s Long March 2 series (20 launches) and Russia’s Soyuz (17).

Rocket Lab worked to make Electron’s first stage reusable by catching it with a coiled cable from a cargo helicopter as that booster descends under a parachute.

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During a first test in May, a Sikorsky S-92 helicopter briefly hooked the Electron stage(Opens in a new window) before the pilots released him after deciding that his charges did not match expectations. Rocket Lab scheduled another capture attempt for last week’s launch, but canceled it after the descending stage lost telemetry. Both times a Rocket Lab vessel fished the scene out of the ocean for inspection.

In 2018, the company chose Wallops Island(Opens in a new window) for its launch facility in the United States; in February, he announced that he build and fly its next, partly reusable and larger Neutron rocket. Wallops hosts suborbital launches for NASA as well as cargo deliveries from the International Space Station via Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket, which recently sent a Cygnus cargo ship to the ISS in a launch early Wednesday morning(Opens in a new window).

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