California-based Rocket Lab successfully launched 30 small satellites into space on Thursday night from New Zealand with plans to recover the first-stage booster from the company's Electron rocket.
Electron lifted off the launch pad early in its 2 hour, 50-minute launch window that opened at 8:44 p.m. EST. Shortly before midnight, Rocket Lab announced they were in the process of securing the booster at sea and were preparing to transport it back to their production complex by ship.
Rocket Lab had confirmed splashdown of Electron's first-stage booster shortly after launch and said recovery operations were underway.
The company also said all 30 small satellites had been delivered to "their precise spots on orbit."
If successful, the small launch company would join SpaceX as the only other orbital launcher to recover the biggest part of a rocket for reuse. The company plans to drop the rocket into the Pacific Ocean near the launch site on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula.
The recovery still is largely an experiment because immersion in corrosive seawater is not ideal for rocket reuse, but doing so will help Rocket Lab advance its plan to catch rocket boosters mid-air with a helicopter.
"It will be the first time Rocket Lab has attempted to recover a stage after launch and is a major milestone in Rocket Lab's pursuit to make Electron a reusable rocket to support an increased launch cadence for small satellites," the company said in a mission description.
The launch includes payload satellites from such companies as Seattle-based gaming giant Valve and Virginia-based launch integration company TriSept Corp., which plans to demonstrate new tether system technology designed to accelerate spacecraft re-entry and reduce orbital debris.
Two satellites on the mission, BRO-2 and BRO-3 from France-based Unseenlabs, will support that company's planned constellation of spacecraft intended to offer improved monitoring of activities at sea, such as illegal fishing and ocean pollution.
Source: United Press International
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Space Force plans National Space Intelligence Center in Ohio
Washington DC (UPI) Nov 17, 2020
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