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.
European engineers test-fired the world’s most powerful present-day single-segment solid rocket booster Monday in French Guiana, clearing a major development hurdle for the Vega-C and Ariane 6 launchers set for debuts in 2019 and 2020.
The last two spacecraft in a four-satellite constellation of tropical cyclone research platforms took off late Thursday from New Zealand on a Rocket Lab Electron launcher, helping ensure NASA’s TROPICS mission is ready for observations in time for the peak of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is set for liftoff from Cape Canaveral on Thursday, heading due east over the Atlantic Ocean to deliver the Turkish Turksat 5A communications satellite into orbit around 33 minutes later.