Rocket Lab’s Electron deploys two Capella radar satellites
With a loud roar and trail of flame, Rocket Lab’s Electron hoisted a pair of Capella Space satellites into the evening sky.
The vehicle took to the skies at 6:38 p.m. EDT (22:38 UTC) March 16, 2023, from Launch Complex 2 at the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.
The mission named “Stronger Together” is part of an ongoing partnership between Capella Space and Rocket Lab.
Capella Space is an American space tech company and a leading provider of commercial Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, imagery.
The 220-pound (100-kilogram) class satellites were placed in low Earth orbit and built on Capella’s growing constellation.
Capella’s constellation of SAR satellites allows it to capture near real time, high-resolution, low noise images of the Earth’s surface, even in areas where cloud cover or darkness would normally hinder traditional optical imaging.
This makes the company’s imaging technology useful for a variety of applications, including monitoring changes in the Earth’s environment, supporting disaster response efforts and providing situational awareness for defense and intelligence agencies.
This is the second Rocket Lab launch for Capella Space and will be followed by an additional four missions.
The Rocket Lab launch vehicle used in this mission was the Electron rocket, a 40-foot (18-meter) tall two stage rocket designed to be an affordable option for the growing small satellite market.
Among its unique features are its all-carbon composite structure including the propellant tanks and its electric-pump-fed Rutherford engines, which are 3D-printed using a proprietary process that allows for rapid manufacture and assembly at a low cost.
Built to handle extreme stresses, the all-carbon structure is both lightweight and strong and reduces mass by as much as 40% over traditional materials.
The first stage uses nine sea-level Rutherford engines, while the second stage has a single vacuum-optimized Rutherford engine.
The vehicle utilizes a kick stage powered by a Curie engine that can deploy satellites in independent precise orbits.
This was the company’s second launch from Virginia, the first occurring in January. Rocket Lab’s other launch site is in New Zealand.
“Congratulations to Capella Space and well done to the Rocket Lab team for another flawless launch from Virginia,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck in a company statement. “This year we’re really picking up the launch pace so while one Electron was on the pad at Launch Complex 2 for Capella Space, the team in New Zealand has been preparing the next rocket at Launch Complex 1 to enable two launches from two continents within days of each other. Dedicated and responsive space access for small sats is here now, made possible by Electron.”
Video courtesy of Rocket Lab
Steve moved to central Virginia from the Atlanta suburbs. He studied U.S. history, geography and social sciences at Virginia Tech and began teaching in the public school system in Southampton County, in Virginia’s Tidewater region. While there, he developed a passion for photography focusing on transportation and anything historic. With encouragement from family and friends, he moved backed to central Virginia where he currently lives and works as a computer science teacher. In his spare time, Steve enjoys spending time with his family and exploring the beautiful Virginia county side with his camera.