By Linda Cicoira
Rocket Lab, a satellite manufacturer and launch provider and the first business to come to the Wallops Research Park, successfully completed a wet dress rehearsal Thursday of its Electron launch vehicle at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.
Rocket Lab’s Morgan Bailey said there is “one final hurdle to clear before a launch window can be set. NASA has to carry out the final development and certification of its Autonomous Flight Termination System, or AFTS, software for the mission. We currently don’t have an ETA on that, but the team at NASA is working hard to close this out for launch.”
“The mission will be a dedicated launch for the United States Space Force in partnership with the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program and the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Small Launch and Targets Division,” Bailey said.
The “rehearsal was a crucial exercise … to ensure all systems and procedures are working perfectly … the Electron launch vehicle was rolled out to the pad, raised vertical and filled with high grade kerosene and liquid oxygen to verify fueling procedures. The launch team then flowed through the integrated countdown to T-0 to carry out the same operations they will undertake on launch day. “
“This flight will be the first time an AFTS has been has flown from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and represents a valuable new capability for the spaceport,” Bailey added.
Launch Complex 2 at Wallops supplements the company’s New Zealand complex from which 14 Electron missions have already launched. The two launch complexes combined can support more than 130 launch opportunities every year to deliver unmatched flexibility for rapid, responsive launch to support a resilient space architecture, Bailey said. Operating two launch complexes in diverse geographic locations provides an unrivalled level of redundancy and assures access to space regardless of disruption to any one launch site.
“Responsive launch is the key to resilience in space and this is what Launch Complex 2 enables,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and chief executive. “All satellites are vulnerable, be it from accidental or deliberate actions. By operating a proven launch vehicle from two launch sites on opposite sides of the world, Rocket Lab delivers unmatched flexibility and responsiveness for the defense and national security community to quickly replace any disabled satellite. We’re immensely proud to be delivering reliable and flexible launch capability to the U.S. Space Force and the wider defense community as space becomes an increasingly contested domain.”
Construction is nearing completion on the Rocket Lab Integration and Control Facility at the research park, adjacent to NASA Wallops Flight Facility Main Base. The ICF houses a launch control center, state-of-the-art payload integration facilities, and a vehicle integration department that enables the processing of multiple Electron vehicles to support multiple launches in rapid succession. The build has been carried out in just a few short months thanks to the tireless support of Virginia Space, Gov. Ralph Northam, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine, and Accomack County.