Rocket Lab’s Electron Launches 2 BlackSky Satellites

Electron launches the Without Mission a Beat mission. (Credit: Joseph Baxter)

by David Bullock
Staff Writer

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket launched two BlackSky remote sensing satellites into orbit on Saturday from the company’s Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula.

The “Without Mission a Beat” flight carried the BlackSky Global-14 Gen 2 and BlackSky Global-15 Gen 2 satellites. The spacecraft were placed into a circular 430 km orbit.

BlackSky now has a constellation of 14 satellites that provide high-frequency monitoring of the most strategic and critical locations in the world. The company’s software platform, Spectra AI, can deliver real-time alerts, data, and information to decision-makers across a range of industries.

“The launch of these latest two satellites enhances our capacity-on-demand offering for customers,” said Nick Merski, BlackSky Chief Operations Officer. “We continue to build on our strategic intelligence advantage as we expand our constellation, ensuring commercial and our government customers are the first to know about the changes that matter most to them.”

BlackSky’s is now preparing the two satellites for operations. The last pair of BlackSky satellites deployed by Rocket Lab began commercial operations and generated revenue within six days of launch.

“Congratulations and welcome to space once again, BlackSky. The past few missions for BlackSky showcase the benefits of a dedicated launch on Electron: quick constellation expansion, streamlined access to space, and fast delivery of global insights to BlackSky customers. Rocket Lab is proud to play a crucial role in enabling this,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck.

It was the seventh launch Electron launch of BlackSky satellites. One of those flights failed with the loss of two spacecraft. Rocket Lab is contracted to launch another pair of BlackSky satellites on a dedicated Electron mission later this year.

This launch was the 25th flight of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, and the company’s second launch of 2022. The booster has a record of 22 successes and three failures.

NASA will be Rocket Lab’s next customer for an Electron rocket launch. The payload is called CAPSTONE, which is a lunar orbiter that will make in-flight tests for the proposed Gateway lunar space station. The launch is scheduled for May 2022 at the same spaceport in New Zealand.

The height of an Electron rocket is 18 meters. It’s diameter is 1.2 meters and it weights 12.5 tons. Electron can be assembled in two to three stages. The stages are filed with RP-1/LOX propellant and the main body of the rocket is made out of a carbon composite material.

Rocket Lab is a US company, but with a wholly own subsidiary in New Zealand. The company was founded in 2006 by Beck and started commercial flights of the Electron rocket in November 2018.