WASHINGTON – Rocket Lab successfully launched an experimental satellite for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on March 28, as the company aims to achieve a monthly cadence of launches.
The company's Electron Rocket launched from its private launch site on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula at 19:27 East. The payload of the rocket, a single DARPA satellite, was disconnected from the upper stage 53 minutes after take-off. "Great kick stage and last orbit. Perfect flight! "Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, tweeted.
The launch was scheduled for March 24, but was delayed shortly before the scheduled departure time due to a faulty video transmitter on the rocket, with weather conditions and limited start windows pushing the next launch opportunity back to March 28.
The payload is a DARPA-developed satellite called the "Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration" (R3D2), which will test deployable antenna technologies and, once in orbit, will be deployed R3D2 will deploy a Kapton membrane that will expand to a diameter of 2.25 meters to demonstrate that small satellites can carry large deployable antennas needed for high bandwidth communication.
In January, when Rocket Lab announced the launch of R3D2, the company said it was the first of 12. The company anticipated an increasing cadence of missions in 2019 during the year. "Basically, our goal for 2019 is to provide this regular and reliable service for orbit," said Peter Beck, Chief Executive of Rocket Lab, in a January interview.
However, this mission suffered from a one-month outage due to delays in shipping the satellite to New Zealand and preparations for launch. It's unclear what the delay will be in Rocket Lab's schedule. The company said in its launch webcast that it is planned to "build and launch rockets every month" this year.
The company is currently building one electron per month, and Beck said before this launch that it had completed the vehicle for the next mission and was on its way to the launch site. Rocket Lab has not announced the payload or date for this mission.