Published: Fri, October 19, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Startup Plans to Launch Small Satellites from Virginia Coast

Startup Plans to Launch Small Satellites from Virginia Coast

The facility, which will be called Launch Complex 2, provides a US -based alternative to Rocket Lab's first launch pad on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula.

Virginia has landed another customer for its commercial spaceport, luring California-based Rocket Lab to build its first USA launch complex at NASA Wallops Flight Facility.

So far, Rocket Lab's Electron launch vehicle has flown just two test missions, including a successful rise to orbit in January.

The company chose Virginia's spaceport after an "exhaustive" national search for a site that could be developed fast and isn't too busy to support a flight rate of 12 launches a year to orbit between the equator and the poles, said Beck.

Rocket Lab, NASA's Wallops Flight Facility and Virginia Space are looking to launch the first Electron rocket from Launch Complex-2 at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport as early as summer 2019.

The endeavor reflects increasing demand from companies and governments alike to monitor ships, crops and the weather from space. The option to select from two launch sites adds an extra layer of flexibility for small satellite customers, offering an unmatched ability to rapidly deploy space-based assets with confidence and precision from a preferred location. The third liftoff, nicknamed "It's Business Time" in homage to the New Zealand comedy duo known as Flight of the Conchords, is set to launch from New Zealand next month and put five small satellites in orbit.

"We've worked closely with the experienced and welcoming teams from Virginia Space and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops to design a pad and processes that will enable an agile and streamlined approach to small-satellite launch on USA soil", Beck said in a news release. "There is an incredible synergy between Virginia Space and Rocket Lab and we are proud to support their missions launching from USA soil".

As Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos-led Blue Origin move toward powerful rockets that could take us to the moon and Mars, another American space startup has been steadily working on launching smaller payloads that don't require big boosters. The development of Launch Complex 2 will also see Rocket Lab continue to expand Electron rocket production at the company's headquarters in Huntington Beach, California, to supply complete launch vehicles for government and commercial customers. That company says it can help law enforcement officials detect illegal activity, such as human trafficking or illegal fishing, by pinpointing maritime radio transmissions.

The rocket launch industry has shifted recently as commercial spaceflight has matured and satellites have gotten smaller and less expensive to manufacture.

Beck said he hoped it would remind people to look past daily concerns and face larger challenges like climate change. The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority owns and operates the regional spaceport. "Rocket Lab's frequency of flights approach to satellite launch dovetails perfectly with the capabilities and facilities available at the Spaceport". It's been testing a small rocket that is to launch satellites into space from a 747 jet flying at 35,000 feet (10,000 meters). Her experience in writing also intersects the IT niche, given the fact that she worked as a content editor for firms that produce software for mobile devices. But he said it's clear that the company's founders and investors believe there'll be room for at least some.

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