Update at 8 a.m. EDT on June 11: Rocket Lab is now targeting Saturday, June 13, to launch the "Don't Stop Me Now" mission due to delays from high winds. This story has been updated with that new date.
The launch company Rocket Lab will launch five small satellites for NASA, a U.S. spy satellite agency and universities early Saturday (June 13) and you can watch it live online.
An Electron rocket will launch the mission, called "Don't Stop Me Now" after a song by the rock band Queen, at 12:43 a.m. EDT (0443 GMT) from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand. The flight, originally scheduled for March 30, has been delayed over two months due to closures from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. High winds delayed a launch attempt on Thursday (June 11) and prompted Rocket Lab to skip a Friday liftoff try.
You can watch the launch live here and on the Space.com homepage, courtesy of Rocket Launch, about 20 minutes before launch. Rocket Lab has a nearly two-hour launch window for the mission that ends at 2:32 a.m. EDT (0632 GMT), so the webcast could begin any time in that window. You can watch the launch directly from Rocket Lab here.
"We gave it our best shot, but today the winds won.," Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck wrote on Twitter early Thursday.
"Don't Stop Me Now" is a rideshare mission carrying multiple satellites into orbit for three different customers.
First, there are three different payloads built for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the agency responsible for space-based reconnaissance of Earth. While details are scant on exactly what those craft will do in orbit, the mission is the second NRO launch by Rocket Lab. (The first was the launch of NROL-151 in January.)
"This is the 2nd launch under NRO's Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) contract vehicle, which enables our exploration of new launch opportunities for smallsats through a streamlined, commercial approach," NRO officials wrote on Twitter. "Under this approach, RASR allows the NRO to have a path to greater launch resiliency and responsiveness. By leveraging commercial space launch capabilities where possible, the NRO can put space capabilities on orbit in a cost-effective manner."
"Don't Stop Me Now" will also launch ANDESITE (short for Ad-Hoc Network Demonstration for Extended Satellite-Based Inquiry and Other Team Endeavors) for NASA's CubeSat Launch initiative. ANDESITE is a small satellite built by students at Boston University to study Earth's magnetic field, according to a Rocket Lab description.
A third payload, the M2 Pathfinder satellite, will also ride to orbit on "Don't Stop Me Now." The mission is a collaboration between the University of New South Wales, Canberra Space and the Australian government, according to Rocket Lab.
"The satellite will demonstrate the ability of an onboard software-based radio to operate and reconfigure while in orbit," Rocket Lab said of the M2 Pathfinder craft.
Unlike recent Rocket Lab flights, in which the company tested new technologies for future Electron booster retrievals after launch, no recovery tests are planned for this mission. Rocket Lab is hoping to begin recovering the first stage of its Electron boosters for eventual reuse by capturing them mid-air using a helicopter and parachutes.
The company's "Don't Stop Me Know" mission is named to honor Rocket Lab board member Scott Smith, a dedicated Queen fan who died in February, according to the New Zealand Herald. Queen's song of the same name was reportedly Smith's favorite, the Herald stated.
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