Earth’s orbit gained seven new small satellites Monday after a successful launch and payload delivery by Long Beach-based aerospace company Rocket Lab.
The mission, dubbed “They Go Up So Fast,” launched from the company’s complex on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 3:30 p.m. PDT and delivered assets for multiple clients, including several commercial operators, government organizations, academic institutions and startups.
Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket launched into a 340-mile circular orbit, where its integrated space tug, or Kick Stage, deployed five satellites. The craft reignited and moved to a lower altitude to deploy a sixth satellite 280 miles above the Earth’s surface.
After delivering its final customer payload, the Kick Stage reconfigured to Rocket Lab’s in-house built spacecraft, Photon Pathstone. The craft is equipped with new systems that will be utilized for the company’s upcoming CAPSTONE mission to the moon for NASA. The Photon is also testing new deep-space radio capability, an upgraded reaction control system, sun sensors and star trackers.
The rest of the payload included:
- A BlackSky Earth-observation microsatellite procured by Spaceflight Inc. to capture high-resolution images of the planet
- A Fleet Space Centauri 3 procured by Tyvak as part of a 140-satellite constellation in low-Earth orbit
- A Myriota 7 procured by Tyvak, also in support of the low-orbit constellation
- A 1U CubeSat from Care Weather Technologies as part of a constellation used to produce hourly maps of global wind speed and direction over the surface of the ocean
- An M2 Pathfinder 3U CubeSat from the University of New South Wales’s Canberra Space, in collaboration with the Royal Australian Air Force, for Earth observation, maritime surveillance and more
- A GunSmake-J 3U CubeSat from the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command procured by TriSept
- Rocket Lab’s own Photon Pathstone.
The mission is Rocket Lab’s 19th successful Electron launch since its first in January 2018. Monday’s success brings the total number of satellites the company has safely delivered to space to 104.
“Reaching more than 100 satellites deployed is an incredible achievement for our team and I’m proud of their tireless efforts which have made Electron the second most frequently launched U.S. rocket annually,” founder and CEO Peter Beck said in a statement. “Today’s mission was a flawless demonstration of how Electron has changed the way space is accessed.”
The company said its next launch will take place within the next few weeks, with details to be announced soon.