WASHINGTON – A rocket laboratory electron beam rocket successfully launched three Defense Defense Technology Demonstration Satellites on May 5 as part of the military's effort to demonstrate a responsive launch Rocket Lab launch site on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand's North Island. The launch was delayed by one day to carry out additional vehicle payload checks from three satellites. These satellites were released from the rocket stage nearly 55 minutes after launch.
"Perfect flight, complete mission success, all payloads in action !!" Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, tweeted shortly thereafter launch of the payload.
The rocket flew a mission to the Defense Department's Space Testing Program called STP-27RD in collaboration with the Defense Innovation Unit. The three satellites together had a mass of 1
The largest of the three satellites is Harbinger, a 150-kilogram satellite built by York Space Systems for the US Army's Space and Missile Defense Command. The spacecraft demonstrates the ability to image synthetic aperture radar images and high bandwidth downlink capabilities in a small satellite. The satellite is the first to be built by York, a Denver-based small satellite manufacturer to reach orbit.
Also in the launch of Space Plug and Play is the CubeSat-1 (SPARC-1), a sponsored six-unit cube sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory in collaboration with the Swedish military to test modular spacecraft avionics. The third satellite is the Air Force Academy's Falcon Orbital Debris (Falcon ODE) experiment, a single unit cube that will release two stainless steel ball bearings that serve as calibrated radar and optical targets for ground-based space sensors.  The launch is the first of the Air Force Rapid Agile Launch Initiative (RALI) program, an attempt to leverage commercial launch providers, and rapid procurement to provide military payloads with faster access to orbit. Air Force officials said last month they intend to launch 21 payloads for five missions in this calendar year through RALI, including the STP-27RD flight and a launch this year by Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne.
The nickname "Cactus is a fun-looking cactus" was the second Electron mission this year and the sixth overall for Rocket Lab. Beck said in an interview last month that the company intends to launch a monthly cadence of re-launches for the remainder of this year, including demonstrating the ability to conduct new releases every two weeks through the end of the year. He added that the company's manifesto is full for 2019.