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Rocket Lab’s First Virginia Mission Delayed Until 2023 • InNewCL

Rocket Lab’s First Virginia Mission Delayed Until 2023 • InNewCL

#Rocket #Labs #Virginia #Mission #Delayed #InNewCL Welcome to InNewCL, here is the new story we have for you today:

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We’ll have to wait a little longer for Rocket Lab’s American debut. The Los Angeles-headquartered company was scheduled to launch a trio of satellites for radio frequency analysis customer HawkEye 360 ​​from the company’s new location at Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. It would have been the first time a Rocket Lab vehicle had lifted off US soil. But the company said late yesterday that strong upper-level winds today – the last day in the launch window – made a no-go and pushed the launch back to January.

It sure is a bummer. The mission was to have a handful of firsts: not only the first time Electron has lifted off US soil, but also the first time a rocket has flown with novel flight safety software that Rocket Lab and NASA say is a gamechanger for American launch plans. This software, an autonomous flight termination system, will reduce range costs and prepare Rocket Lab to meet US Defense Agency launch requirements.

“This flight simply does not symbolize another launch pad for Rocket Lab,” CEO Peter Beck told reporters in a media briefing last Wednesday. “It’s a rising of a new skill for the nation.”

This capability is referred to as the NASA Autonomous Flight Termination Unit (NAFTU), a key component of the Pegasus software jointly developed by Rocket Lab and the space agency. By 2025, all DoD launches will require autonomous flight termination capabilities.

It took several years — and more than a few delays — to get NAFTU certification, David Pierce, director of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, told reporters. He said that NASA discovered “a number of bugs in software code” in 2020, but even after they were fixed, the unit had to go through a lengthy independent testing and certification process. These delays previously prevented Rocket Lab from performing launches from the new LC-2 launch complex.

“I can’t stress enough how important this moment is for launch areas and the launch industry,” Pierce said. He estimated that the unit could reduce launch range costs by up to 30% and help providers increase launch cadence.

Once the rocket returns to the pad in January, it will launch three HawkEye 360 ​​satellites into orbit, where they will eventually fly into formation and collect high-frequency data; HawkEye links the data and analyzes it for customers. This is the first of three launches the company has purchased from Rocket Lab, and it will bring the total number of HawkEye satellites in orbit to 18.

Rocket Lab will not attempt booster recovery for this mission, Beck said. The company has developed a technique to trap a booster returning to Earth using parachutes and a helicopter, which snaps the drifting parachute in midair. Beck said there was no fundamental reason why the company wouldn’t attempt a booster recovery at the Virginia launch site, but he added, “We have to get it right, and using our own range in New Zealand to do that is by far the right thing to do.” the most efficient way to do this.”

Rocket Lab doesn’t just use Virginia as a launch pad. The company is also investing significant capital in the development of the heavier Neutron rocket, including a launch site and a production and overhaul facility. The company’s investment in Wallops is a departure from other launch vehicles such as SpaceX, Relativity and Blue Origin, all of which are based at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Base in Florida.

Beck said it was “the calmness of the lineup and the lineup’s ability to increase capacity” that drew Rocket Lab to Wallops over its Florida locations.

“KSC is an amazing league but I think everyone has to agree, it’s quite busy,” he said. “That [Wallops] The product range isn’t nearly as busy and there’s plenty of room to grow.”

Wallops is working with the FAA to enable an increased launch cadence from the mid-Atlantic region, Pierce said. For the Rocket Lab part, Beck added that the company has the flexibility to switch between the two launch sites — LC-2 and LC-1 on Mahia Island, New Zealand, which is a fully private launch facility — to meet customer needs .

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