Rocket Lab has successfully delivered its 152nd satellite to space after the 32nd launch of its Electron rocket Friday morning but called off its second attempt at catching a stage of the rocket in mid air as it fell to Earth.
The mission, dubbed “Catch Me If You Can,” took off from the firm’s New Zealand launch complex just before 10:30 a.m. Long Beach time carrying OHB Sweden’s Mesospheric Airglow/Aerosol Tomography and Spectroscopy (MATS) satellite for the Swedish National Space Agency.
The spacecraft is the basis of the SNSA’s science mission to observe atmospheric waves and better understand how Earth’s upper atmosphere interacts with wind and weather patterns.
MATS was originally slated to fly on a Russian rocket but Sweden canceled the mission in March following the invasion of Ukraine in late February.
“Preparing for a launch from Russia is unthinkable under the current circumstances,” a spokesperson for the SNSA told City A.M. at the time.
About 53 minutes after liftoff, Rocket Lab delivered MATS to a 585 kilometer circular orbit.
As the name implies, Friday’s mission was meant to build on Rocket Lab’s first attempt at recovering Electron’s first stage in mid air as it descended back to Earth in May.
“Our first helicopter catch only a few months ago proved we can do what we set out to do with Electron,” founder and CEO Peter Beck said in a statement ahead of Friday’s mission.
The firm’s Sikorsky S-92 helicopter was initially stationed in the recovery zone for an attempt to catch the stage. However, due to a loss of telemetry upon reentry, the helicopter was ordered out of the recovery zone for safety and a water recovery team was deployed to fish the stage out of the ocean upon splashdown, spokesperson Murielle Baker explained during a livestream.
Picking the booster up at sea now. pic.twitter.com/GKXcO2Ld2O
— Peter Beck (@Peter_J_Beck) November 4, 2022
Friday’s mission expands on the firm’s record-breaking year in which its launch cadence has grown. Its previous record for launches in a single year was set in 2020 with seven. “Catch Me If You Can” was Rocket Lab’s ninth mission this year.
The firm has had a successful launch every month since April and is slated for a December launch—its first on U.S. soil from its new complex at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
Details for the firm’s final launch of the year have not been released.