Update for Dec. 15: Rocket Lab has pushed back the inaugural launch of an Electron rocket from its new U.S. launch site to no earlier than Sunday, Dec. 18 (opens in new tab), due to regulation issues as the company works with NASA and the FAA to close out final launch documentation. The 2-hour launch window on Dec. 18 opens at 6 p.m. EST (2300 GMT).
The commercial launch company Rocket Lab will have to wait a few more days for its first-ever launch from U.S. soil due to bad weather.
The California-based Rocket Lab, which has been launching small satellites on its Electron rockets from New Zealand since 2017, is now targeting no earlier than Friday (Dec. 16) for the first flight from its new U.S. launch pad on Wallops Island, Virginia. The mission was originally scheduled to launch today (Dec. 9) to deliver six HawkEye 360 satellites to monitor global radio frequencies.
"We're ready on the pad at LC-2 with Electron and @hawkeye360, but with unfavorable weather on the way, plus NASA and FAA working to close out final documentation, we are now targeting no earlier than Dec 16th for launch," Rocket Lab said via Twitter (opens in new tab) on Tuesday (Dec. 14).
The mission, nicknamed "Virginia is for Launch Lovers" (a play on Virginia's tourism slogan "Virginia is for lovers"), will lift off during a two-hour window that opens at 6 p.m. EST (2300 GMT) on Dec. 16.
In photos: Rocket Lab and Its Electron booster
Like its name suggests, Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 2 is the company's second launch site and is located at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, which is also home to the commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.
Rocket Lab joins fellow aerospace company Northrop Grumman as a launch company to fly missions from the spaceport. (Northrop Grumman uses Wallops to launch Antares rockets carrying Cygnus cargo ships to the International Space Station for NASA.)
Rocket Lab opened its Launch Complex 2, or LC-2, in December 2019, but its first launch from the site had been held up by a NASA certification process for its by NASA in certifying Electron's Autonomous Flight Termination Unit (NAFTU) software, a required safety system for launch.
Rocket Lab has launched 32 missions from the two pads at its Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. The company will use its Virginia launch site to add to its launch opportunities, allowing for "more than 130 launch opportunities every year, delivering unmatched flexibility for rapid, responsive launch for government and commercial satellite operators," Rocket Lab said in a statement (opens in new tab).
The launch company won't just fly its Electron rockets from Virginia.
Rocket Lab is currently developing a new, larger rocket called Neutron to launch larger payloads into space. That rocket, which is designed to be fully reusable, is being built in Virginia and will use the Wallops launch site as its home port, Rocket Lab has said.