The mission, named “Virginia is for Launch Lovers,” will deploy satellites for HawkEye 360 and will be Rocket Lab’s first lift-off from Launch Complex 2 at Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport within NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.
This launch pad developed to support Electron missions from U.S. soil for government and commercial customers. The launch window has been set following recent progress by NASA in certifying its Autonomous Flight Termination Unit (NAFTU) software, which is required to enable Electron launches from Virginia.
Launch Complex 2 supplements Rocket Lab’s existing site, Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, from which 31 Electron missions have already launched. This extensive launch heritage already makes Electron the most frequently launched small orbital rocket globally, and now with two launch complexes combined, Rocket Lab can support more than 130 launch opportunities every year for government and commercial satellite operators. The launch pad and production complex for Rocket Lab’s large reusable Neutron launch vehicle will also be located at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, streamlining operations across small and large launch.
The “Virginia is for Launch Lovers” mission will be the first of three Electron launches for HawkEye 360 in a contract that will see Rocket Lab deliver 15 satellites to LEO between late 2022 and 2024. These missions will grow HawkEye 360’s constellation of radio frequency monitoring satellites, enabling the company to better deliver precise geolocation of radio frequency emissions anywhere in the world. Supporting Rocket Lab’s vertical integration strategy, Rocket Lab will also supply HawkEye 360 with separation systems produced by Planetary Systems Corporation, a Maryland-based space hardware company acquired by Rocket Lab in December of 2021.
A live launch webcast will also be available at this direct link at around T-40 minutes.
“We are honored and excited to bring a new launch capability to Virginia’s Eastern Shore,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. “Electron is well established as the leader in small launch, reliably serving the responsive space needs of the commercial, civil, DoD, and national security markets alike. With our inaugural mission from Launch Complex 2, we are immensely proud to expand on this strong launch heritage by enabling a new capability for the nation from Virginian soil. We look forward to making history this December with our dedicated mission partners HawkEye 360, NASA and Virginia Space.”
“For our fifth cluster of next-generation satellites, we needed optimal orbital flexibility — and Rocket Lab’s new Electron launch pad in Wallops, Virginia provides the perfect domestic capability,” said CEO of HawkEye 360, John Serafini. “Rocket Lab’s inaugural launch facilitates our first mid-latitude satellite cluster, which will strengthen the diversity of our geospatial insights for our government and commercial customers across the globe.”
Rocket Lab USA, Inc. has also been selected by MDA Ltd. (TSX: MDA) to develop the Satellite Operations Control Center (SOCC) for Globalstar’s (NYSE American: GSAT) growing constellation — MDA is the prime contractor for Globalstar’s new LEO constellation.
The SOCC contract builds on the existing relationship between MDA, Rocket Lab and Globalstar established in February of 2022 when Rocket Lab was awarded a $143 million contract design and manufacture of 17 spacecraft buses for Globalstar’s new LEO satellites. These new satellites and SOCC will augment Globalstar’s existing constellation, delivering reliable mobile satellite voice and data services from space.
The SOCC system will be developed by Rocket Lab’s Denver, Colorado, ground data systems team and based on the MAX Ground Data System (MAX GDS). MAX GDS is in use on several satellites and constellations, including the DARPA/SDA Mandrake-2 mission involving two formation flying spacecraft performing optical crosslink demonstrations. The Globalstar SOCC will provide 24/7 monitoring and management of Globalstar’s constellation including:
- Continuous satellite control and monitoring using Rocket Lab’s MAX GDS, a constellation-class ground software solution that provides complete spacecraft command and control
- Satellite orbit determination, maneuver planning, collision avoidance, orbit maintenance, and propellant management
- Satellite health analysis and reporting, anomaly resolution, performance trending, payload monitoring, management, and reconfiguration
The SOCC is designed to support Globalstar’s existing constellation and the new 17 satellites. The MAX GDS solution will be deployed to all of Globalstar’s existing operations and network control centers in Covington, Louisiana, Milpitas, California, and Aussaguel, France.
All 17 of the new Globalstar spacecraft platforms are being designed and manufactured at Rocket Lab’s Long Beach production complex and headquarters, where a new high-volume spacecraft manufacturing line has been developed to support growing customer demand for Rocket Lab satellites. The satellite platforms will be delivered to MDA for integration and testing.
Leveraging Rocket Lab’s vertically integrated space systems capabilities, the satellite platforms feature components and subsystems produced by Rocket Lab-acquired companies including solar panels and structures from SolAero Technologies in Albuquerque, New Mexico, software from ASI by Rocket Lab in Denver, Colorado, and reaction wheels from Sinclair Interplanetary in Toronto, Canada. The telemetry and control radio for all spacecraft will also be a C-band variant of Rocket Lab’s Frontier Satellite Radio (Frontier-C).
“The combination of our proven MAX GDS software and our deep expertise operating demanding and complex missions makes us an ideal choice for the Globalstar project, and we’re honored by the confidence and trust MDA have placed in us to deliver consistent mission success for years to come,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO. “By designing and manufacturing Globalstar’s spacecraft buses, delivering the flight and ground software solutions, and developing and supporting the spacecraft operations centers, we’re once again executing on our strategy of going beyond launch to deliver complete space mission solutions.”
Rocket Lab USA, Inc. also now has two contracts worth a total of $14 million to provide satellite separation systems for companies building Space Development Agency’s (SDA) Tranche 1 Transport Layer (T1TL) satellites. Rocket Lab will supply more than 80, Lightband Separation Systems (Lightbands) to prime contractor Lockheed Martin and another undisclosed customer, both of whom are manufacturing satellites for the SDA’s Tranche 1 Transport Layer.
Lightbands are separation systems that are used to attach satellites to rockets and release them in space once the rocket reaches its intended orbit. Rocket Lab’s separation systems were designed by Planetary Systems Corp., which was acquired by the Company in 2021, and have a 100% mission success rate across more than 140 missions. Compared to typical clamp band separation systems, Rocket Lab’s Lightbands are lighter weight, have a lower profile, shock and tip-off rate, and have attained the highest Technology Readiness Level by the US Government.
Part of the National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA), SDA’s Transport Layer will provide assured, resilient, low-latency military data and connectivity worldwide to the full range of warfighter platforms. T1TL consists of a mesh network of 126 optically-interconnected space vehicles and will form the initial warfighting capability tranche of the NDSA.
Previously, Rocket Lab’s Lightbands has been used on NASA International Space Station and Space Shuttle missions, on all major U.S. and international rockets.
The Lightbands are a part of Rocket Lab’s vertically-integrated, Space Systems offering that also include the in-house manufactured and operated spacecraft, satellite dispensers, and satellite components such as reaction wheels and star trackers, solar panels, and flight software.
“The Tranche 1 Transport Layer will provide crucial capabilities for the National Defense Space Architecture and we’re proud to be delivering the separation systems that will deploy these spacecraft precisely and accurately,” said Brad Clevenger, Vice President of Space Systems. “Being selected by not one but two companies building spacecraft for the SDA’s Transport Layer is a real vote of confidence in our Lightbands which have delivered 100% mission success for more than 100 separations on orbit.”