Rocket Lab has big plans for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) where tomorrow it will launch the first of its U.S. based Electron rockets. The December 18th mission from the Virginia spaceport will depart from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. While Rocket Lab has been launching the Electron from New Zealand, it is starting up operations in Virginia and may become a big presence on the mid-atlantic coast.
The Electron, a 60-foot rocket, is intended for short turnaround of smaller loads. This sounds ideal to the customer base for satellites in Washington, DC just up the road. If all goes well, the larger Neutron rocket will also be launched from MARS in the near future. Ultimately, the VA facility may host monthly Rocket Lab launches.
In an earlier press release, Rocket Lab noted its going potential with both Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand and the new Launch Complex 2 in Virginia:
While “Virginia Is For Launch Lovers” will be Electron’s first launch from the U.S., Rocket Lab has already conducted 32 Electron missions from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, delivering 152 satellites to orbit for customers including NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office, DARPA, the U.S. Space Force and a range of commercial constellation operators. Electron is already the most frequently launched small orbital rocket globally and now with the capacity of the pads at Launch Complex 1 and 2 combined, Rocket Lab has more than 130 Electron launch opportunities every year.
Tomorrow’s launch will be an important test of the company’s new approach. If all goes well, it is good news for the Virginia economy as well as the U.S. commercial space industry.
Update: The launch has been delayed due to weather until Monday, December 19th.
Second Update: The Monday launch was delayed again due to weather. Stay tuned for a new launch date.