A Rocket Lab Electron rocket climbed into orbit from New Zealand Thursday (U.S. time) with an experimental payload for a U.S. military research and development agency to demonstrate the performance of a compact, deployable antenna that could expand the communications capabilities of future small satellites.
Rocket Lab’s launch team canceled a launch attempt Sunday in New Zealand after discovering a misbehaving video transmitter on the Electron booster set to loft a small U.S. military satellite into orbit to test an innovative antenna design. After replacing the transmitter, Rocket Lab announced the launch is set for Thursday (U.S. time) to wait for better weather.
Rocket Lab’s first launch of the year lifted off Thursday at 7:27 p.m. EDT (2327 GMT) after a four-day delay to replace a video transmitter and wait for improved weather. The company’s Electron rocket launched from Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand’s North Island with a technology demonstration satellite for DARPA, the U.S. military research and development agency.
Engineers working for Spaceflight, a Seattle-based launch services company, are in the final steps of preparing for the first launch of new robotic free flyers carrying more than 70 small government and commercial satellites into polar orbit later this year aboard a dedicated flight of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
A series of unprecedented back-to-back test-firings of a rocket engine originally developed for NASA’s space shuttle concluded earlier this month, giving engineers data crucial to achieving rapid 24-hour turnarounds planned for a U.S. military-funded reusable winged booster under construction at Boeing, government and industry officials said.