Since its first test launch on May 25, 2017, Rocket Lab has successfully put 149 satellites in space. The Long Beach-based firm is now gearing up for No. 150 when its next launch window opens in mid-September.
The upcoming mission, dubbed “The Owl Spreads its Wings,” is slated to carry a single satellite—the StriX-1—from the firm’s New Zealand launch complex to low Earth orbit. The StriX-1 is Japanese Earth-imaging satellite firm Synspective’s first commercial satellite for its synthetic aperture radar (SAR) constellation.
The SAR constellation will be able to deliver images that can detect millimeter-level changes to the Earth’s surface from space regardless of weather conditions on Earth or time of day, according to Rocket Lab.
The mission is the second of a three-mission bulk buy for Electron launches for Synspective. It will, however, mark the third Rocket Lab launch for the Japanese company, the first two happening in December 2020 and February 2022.
“From launching Synspective’s first demonstration spacecraft to now helping to build their SAR constellation with this launch of their first commercial StriX satellite, it’s an honor to once again be the trusted launch partner for Synspective,” Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said in a statement.
“The Owl Spreads its Wings” will mark other milestones for Rocket Lab, including being the 30th launch of its Electron rocket. It will blast off less than two months after the firm’s last launch, “Antipodean Adventure.”
The 27th, 28th and 29th Electron missions for Rocket Lab blasted off from June 28 to Aug. 4 and set a record launch cadence for the company, with three in just over five weeks. The latter two missions put a pair of spy satellites in orbit for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.
The forthcoming mission also will see the 300th Rutherford engine reaching space. The liquid-propellant rocket engine was designed by Rocket Lab and is produced, mostly using 3D-printing technology, in its Long Beach facility.
The firm’s Electron rocket is equipped with a total of 10 Rutherford engines, including a nine-engine cluster on its first stage and a single engine with a longer nozzle on the second stage. The Rutherford uses liquid oxygen and refined kerosene as its propellants.