Rocket Lab has been selected by NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia as its U.S. launch site. The company unveiled the decision on Oct. 1
Credit: Rocket Lab
WALLOPS ICELAND, Virginia – The private spaceflight company Rocket Lab has a new spaceport, and it's in Virginia.
The California-based startup Rocket Lab, which aims to corner The small-satellite launch market with its electron boosters, unveiled plans to launch the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport overseen by Virginia Space.
The spaceport, which is located at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, has long been used to launch small, suborbital sounding rockets. Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is now the home port for Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, which launches commercial cargo missions to the International Space Station for NASA using the company's Antares rockets and robotic Cygnus spacecraft. [Changing the Launch Equation: Q&A with Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck]
Rocket Lab wants to build a new launch pad, called Launch Complex-2 (LC-2 for short), near the Pad 0A site used by Northrop Grumman for Antares launches. Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said: "We're honored to be so warmly welcomed in your beautiful state," Beck said during the unveiling here today (Oct. 17).
As its name suggests, LC-2 is Rocket Lab's second launch site, but it's the first one located in the United States. New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula.
Wallops Flight Facility, on Virginia's Eastern Shore beach region, is one of four spaceports on Rocket Lab's short list for commercial satellite launches from US. soil. The other sites were Florida's Cape Canaveral, California's Vandenberg Air Force Base and Alaska's Pacific Spaceport Complex.
"We were looking for a site that could be quickly adapted to meet our needs and [that] could support a flight rate of At least 12 launches a year, "Beck said. NASA Wallops Flight Facility.
The new launchpad will be located near Wallops' seaside pad 0A, which is Northrop Grumman's Antares rockets use. Rocket Lab plans to invest $ 20 million in a $ 5 million state grant from Virginia's Transportation Department. The launch complex will include a pad, an integration facility and a launch control center, and the site will add about 30 jobs to the local economy, Rocket Lab said.
"Is this great or what?" Bill Wrobel, director of the Wallops Flight Facility, said during a groundbreaking ceremony. "This is a real shot in the arm for the Eastern Shore."
Beck said that "one big factor in Wallops's favor is the launch range's availability, as fewer flights are launched from Cape Canaveral or Vandenberg."  Rocket Lab aims to rapidly boost its launch schedule with the addition of LC-2. Beck says he sees the launch site as a "boutique" launchpad for customers who are not ready to travel to Rocket Lab's primary launch site, LC-1 in New Zealand. 130 launches a year.
Rocket Lab's engines are produced at its Huntington Beach, California, headquarters, with the rest of the Electron boosters assembled at the company's new rocket factory in Auckland, New Zealand.
Electron boosters stood 57 feet (17 meters) tall and are designed to launch payloads of up to 500 lbs. (227 kilograms) into orbit for about $ 5 million per launch.
On this second flight, Rocket launched four small satellites into orbits, including three Earth-observing cubesats and a shiny, spherical spacecraft called the Humanity Star. This latter craft was built to remain visible to stargazers until it fell back to earth.
Rocket Lab's next mission, nicknamed "It's Business Time," is scheduled to launch in November after a series of delays.
Beck said that "It's Business Time" is on track for a November launch ironing out the electron issues for the long term.
"We're not just focused on the next flight," Beck said. "We're focused on the next 100 flights."