Rocket Lab’s Electron getting US-based launch site
Rocket Lab recently announced plans to build a launch complex in the United States for its small Electron rocket. The site, to be announced in August 2018, is expected to complement its current facility in New Zealand.
The Huntington Beach, California-based company said in an update that it has narrowed its selection to four space ports—Cape Canaveral, Florida; Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia; Pacific Spaceport Complex, Alaska; or Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. When announced, Launch Complex 2 is expected to begin construction immediately.
Due to the increase of small satellite use, Rocket Lab said it is providing commercial and U.S. government customers swift launch turn-around time. The company also has Launch Complex 1 based on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, which is licensed to launch once every 72 hours.
“The development of Rocket Lab’s U.S. launch site strengthens our existing position as the industry leader providing frequent and tailored access to orbit for small satellites,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck in a company statement. “Launching from U.S. soil adds an extra layer of flexibility for our government and commercial customers, offering an unmatched ability to rapidly deploy space-based assets with confidence and precision.”
The company also recently announced a partnership with Spaceflight—a company that specializes in organizing rideshare launches for small payloads—to fly three missions in 2018/2019. The first mission is expected to launch a BlackSky microsat along with other customers in late 2018. All three missions should lift off from Launch Complex 1 and deploy the spacecraft into low-Earth orbit.
Rocket Lab said it the Spaceflight missions are set to join a busy manifest that could see the company launching monthly by the end of 2018 and launch every two weeks in 2019.
“We believe the launch sites are being assessed against a range of criteria,” Beck said, “Every aspect of the Electron orbital launch program is designed with this in mind and Launch Complex 2 is the next step in this strategy.”
Rocket Lab is considering the East and West coasts of the U.S. as options to explore with the anticipation of increased manifest demand. The four potential sites are expected to meet a range of criteria, including anticipated launch pad construction cost and time frame, regulatory times, and ongoing costs once the site is operational.
Launch Complex 2 is being designed to support monthly orbital launches. It’s first mission is scheduled for the second quarter of 2019. Rocket Lab said it plans to construct its own pad infrastructure tailored for the Electron launch vehicle.
Heather Smith's fascination for space exploration – started at the tender age of twelve while she was on a sixth-grade field trip in Kenner, Louisiana, walking through a mock-up of the International Space Station and seeing the “space potty” (her terminology has progressed considerably since that time) – she realized at this point that her future lay in the stars. Smith has come to realize that very few people have noticed how much spaceflight technology has improved their lives. She has since dedicated herself to correcting this problem. Inspired by such classic literature as Anne Frank’s Diary, she has honed her writing skills and has signed on as The Spaceflight Group’s coordinator for the organization’s social media efforts.