After scrubbing a launch attempt Nov. 29 due to a problem with a second stage umbilical, Rocket Lab launched seven small satellites on an Electron booster from New Zealand at 3:18 a.m. EST (0818 GMT) Friday. The Electron rocket lifted off with an upgraded first stage carrying new hardware to control the rocket’s re-entry before teams attempt to catch the booster on future missions for refurbishment and reuse.
The fourth and last spacecraft in BlackSky’s initial flock of commercial Earth-imaging microsatellites successfully launched Monday aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket with three other payloads, setting the stage for the final assembly and launch of at least 20 more BlackSky orbiting surveillance platforms starting later this year.
TriSept Corp. has announced plans for a commercial technology demonstration mission set for launch next year on a Rocket Lab Electron vehicle to test a deployable conductive tape, made by Tethers Unlimited, that could help small satellites more quickly fall out of orbit at the end of their missions.
Rocket Lab’s next launch from New Zealand, set for Friday, will carry a data recorder to measure the aerothermal environments encountered by the Electron launcher’s first stage during descent back into the atmosphere, information engineers say is crucial to successfully achieving the company’s newly-announced plan to recover and reuse the booster.