Days after a successful launch from its new facility in Virginia, another Rocket Lab Electron rocket blasted off from New Zealand in another successful mission.
Electron launched from the company’s New Zealand launch complex at 2:14 a.m. PDT, exactly one week after the second successful mission from Rocket Lab’s new launch complex at Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, which delivered two satellites for Capella Space.
Dubbed “The Beat Goes On,” the Friday morning mission included the delivery of two multi-spectral Gen-2 satellites to low-Earth orbit for BlackSky. The Earth-imaging satellites were placed in a circular 450-kilometer orbit, bringing the total number of satellites in BlackSky’s constellation to 16.
The satellite network runs high-resolution images through proprietary artificial intelligence software to provide analytics for various industries, including transportation, infrastructure, defense, supply chain management and humanitarian aid.
The mission was Rocket Lab’s seventh launch for BlackSky since 2019.
The mission also included a successful splashdown and recovery of the Electron’s first stage. The recovery is part of the company’s plan to make Electron reusable.
“Launching two successful missions just seven days apart from two different hemispheres is a real demonstration of responsive space in action,” founder and CEO Peter Beck said in a statement. “And successfully splashing down Electron’s first stage as part of our reusability program is the icing on the cake.”
The first stage is being transported back to the company’s production complex for assessment, testing and requalification. Previously, Rocket Lab has attempted to use a helicopter to catch the returning stage. Pending the results of the assessment, however, the company states it may continue with marine operations for recovery instead.
Friday’s mission was the company’s 35th successful Electron launch and brought the total number of satellites delivered to orbit by Rocket Lab to 159.
The Long Beach-based company is on track to surpass last year’s launch record of nine, with 15 planned for 2023. Disclosed missions include two launches for NASA TROPICS constellation, a dedicated mission for Kinéis, multiple more launches for Capella Space and a mission to demonstrate space debris removal technology by Astroscale Japan.