Rocket Lab’s light-class Electron launcher is set to take off on its fourth flight from New Zealand, aiming to deliver 13 CubeSats to orbit on the company’s first mission for NASA.
The two-stage, 55-foot-tall (17-meter) rocket could take off as soon as 11 p.m. EST on Dec. 15 (0400 GMT on Dec. 16) from Rocket Lab’s commercial launch complex on Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand’s North Island.
The privately-developed Electron launcher is making its fourth flight after its maiden flight in May 2017 reached space, but faltered before reaching orbit, followed by back-to-back successful missions that deployed nanosatellites into low Earth orbit.
Rocket Lab has christened the mission “This One’s for Pickering” in honor of the New Zealand-born scientist William Pickering, who was director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, for 22 years until his retirement in 1976.
The timeline posted below is accompanied by animation provided by Rocket Lab that illustrates the approximate appearance of the major flight events.
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A commercial SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule packed with a robot assistant for the International Space Station’s crew, pouches of extra strong coffee, and a NASA science instrument designed to track the health of plants on Earth left Cape Canaveral aboard a Falcon 9 rocket Friday on a three-day pursuit of the orbiting research lab.
The European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft — assembled in Britain and set for liftoff in February — has completed environmental testing in Germany and is scheduled to ride a cargo plane to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin launch preparations Oct. 31, several weeks earlier than planned to avoid complications stemming from Brexit.