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Rocket Lab Electron Booster Launches 4 Satellites Into Orbit

Update, 9:15 a.m.: This story was updated to confirm that all four satellites successfully deployed.

The private spaceflight company Rocket Lab launched four new satellites into orbit in a dazzling predawn liftoff for the U.S Air Force Space Command and companies in Seattle and France on Monday (Aug. 19).

Rocket Lab's two-stage Electron booster soared into space at 8:12 a.m. EDT (1212 GMT) from the company's Māhia Peninsula launch site in New Zealand, where the local time was 12:12 a.m. Tuesday. The launch was delayed three days due to unacceptably high winds at the launchpad.

Everything went smoothly with the launch itself and the rocket deployed the four satellites before 9:15 a.m. EDT, Rocket Lab confirmed in a tweet.

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Monday's launch,  nicknamed "Look Ma, No Hands," carries four very different satellites into orbit. One cubesat managed by French company UnseenLabs is the first of a planned constellation of small maritime surveillance satellites for ocean monitoring.

The remaining satellites' flight was arranged by the rideshare provider Spaceflight. Those payloads include an Earth imaging satellite for the Seattle-based BlackSky's constellation for intelligence purposes, and two experimental technology demonstration satellites for the United States Air Force Command. 

Rocket Lab competed its eighth Electron launch, dubbed "Look Ma, No Hands" on Aug. 19, 2019. (Image credit: Rocket Lab)

The Air Force satellites are "designed to test new technologies including propulsion, power, communications, and drag capabilities for potential applications on future spacecraft," Rocket Lab said in a statement.

"Look Ma, No Hands" is the eight Electron launch for Rocket Lab since 2017.

Monday's launch also marked Rocket Lab's second flight of an Electron with a new data recorder to monitor the first stage during its flight. This will further the company's goal to snatch returning rockets out of the sky using a helicopter. 

Rocket Lab's recovery plan for rockets is much different than the typical approach of SpaceX or Blue Origin, as their rockets or boosters land vertically on drone ships or on the ground.

The company first began flying the data recorder on Electrons during its June 29 launch, nicknamed "Make It Rain," to "inform future recovery efforts," Rocket Lab said in a statement earlier in August. 

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is pursuing a Ph.D. part-time in aerospace sciences (University of North Dakota) after completing an M.Sc. (space studies) at the same institution. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @HowellSpace.