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Sun, Oct 09, 2022

Rocket Lab Breaks Own Annual Launch Record

October Liftoff Marks 31st Electron Rocket Mission

Rocket Lab is a publicly traded, American space-launch concern with a New Zealand subsidiary. The company’s Electron rocket—a proper noun, not an allusion to the contraption’s workings—is a market-leader in the light space-launch sector. Electron is designed to carry a 200–300-kilogram (440–660-pound) payload to a 500-kilometer (310-statute-mile) sun-synchronous orbit—specifications ideally suited to the launch of CubeSats and similarly small payloads.

In May 2022, after four years of developing the requisite systems and procedures, Rocket Lab attempted to recover an Electron booster by helicopter as the stage descended from Earth’s upper-atmosphere under a parachute canopy. The maneuver was partially successful—which is to say the helicopter crew “caught” the booster as it drifted Earthward, but had to release it when the load shifted beyond pre-determined safety limits.

On 7 October 2022, the successful liftoff of Rocket Lab's It Argos Up From Here mission from Launch Complex 1–the company’s private orbital launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula—marked the 31st flight of an Electron rocket and the record-breaking eighth Rocket Lab launch of 2022–besting the company’s previous record of seven launches in 2020.

Rocket Lab has a marked propensity for ascribing tongue-in-cheek monikers to its launches, e.g. It’s a Test, Electron's first attempted launch; Return to Sender, mission during which the aforementioned helicopter recovery was attempted; and Running Out of Fingers, Electron’s tenth launch.

It Argos Up From Here was a dedicated launch for General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS). The endeavor saw the successful deployment of General Atomics’s GAzelle satellite, which carries the Argos-4 Advanced Data Collection (A-DCS) payload. The A-DCS mission is supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Cooperative Data and Rescue Services Program, which arranged the launch through the Hosted Payload Solutions contract vehicle administered by the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command.

Now in orbit, Argos-4 has joined a network of other Argos instruments to collect a variety of data from both stationary and mobile transmitters around the world. The information will facilitate a better understanding of Earth’s physical and biological environments, including planetary weather and climate, biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as assist with maritime security, offshore pollution, and humanitarian assistance.

Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck remarked: “Congratulations to the teams at General Atomics, NOAA, and France’s National Center for Space Studies on a successful mission. Beating our own annual launch record with such an important spacecraft delivering critical insights about our planet is a real privilege.”

To complement its Electron platform, Rocket Lab is developing the larger Neutron rocket, a reusable, medium-lift, two-stage launch vehicle capable of delivering an 8,000-kilogram (17,600 pound) payload to low Earth orbit. The company is also in the process of creating a new satellite-bus called Photon, by which Rocket Labs customers may eventually convey satellites to orbits around Earth’s moon and celestial bodies within the Sol system.



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