Rocket Lab Launches 107th Satellite To Orbit, Successfully Tests Helicopter Recovery Operations

Electron launches from New Zealand on Nov. 18, 2021. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

MAHIA, New Zealand. 18 November 2021 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab (Nasdaq: RKLB), a leading launch and space systems company, has successfully deployed two satellites to orbit for real-time geospatial monitoring company BlackSky (NYSE: BKSY). Rocket Lab also successfully introduced helicopter operations to a recovery mission for the first time, using a helicopter to observe and track the Electron rocket’s first stage as it descended to Earth under parachute as part of the company’s program to make Electron the world’s first reusable, orbital-class commercial small rocket.

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Rocket Lab to Recover Electron Rocket, Introduce Helicopter Operations During Next Launch

A crew recovers the first stage of an Electron rocket from the ocean. (Credit: Rocket Lab)
  • The mission is the latest in Rocket Lab’s program to make Electron the first reusable orbital launch vehicle dedicated to small satellites.
  • After splashing down in the ocean, Electron’s first stage will be recovered by ship and transported back to Rocket Lab’s production complex for analysis.
  • For the first time, a helicopter will track and observe Electron’s descent in preparation for future missions which aim to use helicopters to intercept and capture returning rocket boosters mid-air as they return to Earth under parachute.

Long Beach, California. 19 October 2021 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab USA, Inc (“Rocket Lab” or the “Company”) (Nasdaq: RKLB) has today revealed it will attempt a controlled ocean splashdown and recovery of the first stage of an Electron rocket during the company’s next launch in November. The mission will be Rocket Lab’s third ocean recovery of an Electron stage; however, it will be the first time a helicopter will be stationed in the recovery zone around 200 nautical miles offshore to track and visually observe a descending stage in preparation for future aerial capture attempts. The helicopter will not attempt a mid-air capture for this mission but will test communications and tracking to refine the concept of operations (CONOPS) for future Electron aerial capture.

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Rocket Lab Launch Operations Underway For Two BlackSky Missions in November

Electron launches with OHB satellite. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (“Rocket Lab” or the “Company”) (Nasdaq: RKLB), a leading launch provider and space systems company, has today announced it has scheduled two dedicated launches in November for Spaceflight Inc.’s customer, real-time geospatial and global monitoring company BlackSky (NYSE: BKSY).

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Rocket Lab to Launch Four PocketQube Satellites for Alba Orbital

Electron launches with 10 satellites on Oct. 29, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

Launching on Electron in Q4 2021, the mission will deploy a range of pocket-sized satellites designed to demonstrate innovative radio and night-time Earth observation technologies

LONG BEACH, Calif., August 18, 2021 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, a leading launch provider and space systems company, today announced it has signed a rideshare agreement with Scottish / American PocketQube satellite manufacturer, Alba Orbital, to launch a cluster of small satellites designed to demonstrate innovative radio and night-time Earth observation technologies. 

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Rocket Lab to Launch Finnish Satellite Developing Next-Generation Space Junk Removal Technologies

Electron launches with OHB satellite. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

LONG BEACH, Calif., August 16, 2021 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, a leading launch provider and space systems company, has today announced it will launch a satellite to test space junk removal technologies for Aurora Propulsion Technologies, a Finnish company dedicated to the sustainable use of space.

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Rocket Lab to Launch Three Back-To-Back Missions for BlackSky from late August

Electron launches with 10 satellites on Oct. 29, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

The next Electron rocket on the pad is the first of three dedicated missions for BlackSky scheduled for lift-off from late August through September.

LONG BEACH, Calif., August 10, 2021 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, a leading launch provider and space systems company, has today announced its next mission is part of a rapid launch schedule of three dedicated Electron missions for global monitoring provider BlackSky.

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Rocket Lab to Launch NASA Funded Commercial Moon Mission from New Zealand

Photon CAPSTONE spacecraft (Credit: Rocket Lab)

LONG BEACH, Calif., August 6, 2021 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, the leading launch and space systems company, today announced it will launch the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand from Q4 2021. It will be Rocket Lab’s first launch to the Moon. CAPSTONE (the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) aids NASA’s Artemis program, which includes landing the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon and establishing a long-term presence there.

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Rocket Lab’s Electron Launches U.S. Military Satellite in Successful Return to Flight

Electron engine firing (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MAHIA PENINSULA, New Zealand — Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket launched an U.S. Space Force satellite on Thursday in a successful return to flight for the small-satellite booster after a launch failure in May.

The booster lifted off with the USSF’s Monolith technology technology demonstration satellite. Deployment from the booster’s kick stage occurred less than an hour after liftoff from Rocket Lab’s facility on the Mahia Peninsula.

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Rocket Lab to Launch U.S. Space Force Mission on Thursday From Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand

Electron launches with OHB satellite. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

LONG BEACH, Calif., July 27, 2021 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, the leading launch and space systems company, today announced it will open a launch window from tomorrow to launch a research and development satellite to low Earth orbit from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand for the United States Space Force (USSF).

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Rocket Lab Completes Anomaly Review, Next Mission on the Pad in July

Electron launches with OHB satellite. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

LONG BEACH, Calif.. July 19, 2021 (RocketLab PR) – Leading launch and space systems company Rocket Lab today announced it has concluded an extensive review into the cause of the anomaly that resulted in the loss of its “Running Out Of Toes” mission launched on May 15, 2021. With the root cause of the issue identified and corrective measures now in place, Electron will be back on the pad for the next mission from Launch Complex 1 later this month.

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Launch 2020: U.S. Reclaimed Top Spot, Flew Astronauts Again from American Soil

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The United States reclaimed the top spot in launches from China last year as NASA astronauts flew into orbit from American soil for the first time in nearly nine years, SpaceX deployed the world’s first satellite mega-constellation with reused rockets, and two new launchers debuted with less than stellar results.

American companies conducted 44 launches in 2020, with 40 successes and four failures. Bryce Tech reports that U.S. companies accounted for 32 of the 41 commercial launches conducted last year. The majority of those flights were conducted by SpaceX, which launched 25 orbital missions.

China came in second with a record of 35 successful launches and four failures. The 39 launch attempts tied that nation’s previous record for flights during a calendar year.

Let’s take a closer look at what U.S. companies achieved last year.

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Launch 2020: A Busy Year Filled with Firsts in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.

First in a series

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.

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Federal Aviation Administration Approves Rocket Lab To Resume Launches

Electron launches with 10 satellites on Oct. 29, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

LONG BEACH, Calif., 02 June 2021 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, the leading launch and space systems company, announced today it has received authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to resume launches. The approval comes fewer than three weeks after Rocket Lab experienced an anomaly during its 20th launch, resulting in the loss of the mission.

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Bringing a Rocket Back from Space: Rocket Lab to Recover Electron Booster on Next Mission

A crew recovers the first stage of an Electron rocket from the ocean. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Rocket Lab will attempt to bring an intact rocket back from space in another major step toward making Electron the first reusable orbital small launch vehicle 

Long Beach, California. April 8, 2021 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, the leading launch and space systems company, today announced that on its next mission the company will attempt to bring a rocket back from space, slowing the Electron launch vehicle down from speeds of >Mach 8 as it re-enter’s Earth’s atmosphere before splashing the rocket down in the ocean. The complex mission is the next major step toward making Electron the first orbital-class reusable small launch vehicle, enabling rapid-turnaround launches for small satellites.

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Quarterly Launch Report: US in the Lead Thanks to SpaceX

A Falcon 9 lifts off with 60 Starlink satellites on March 11, 2021. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

There were 27 orbital launch attempts with 26 successes and one failure during the first quarter of 2021. The United States accounted for nearly half the total with 13 launches behind nine flights by SpaceX.

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