Space startup Rocket Lab has planned a ride-share mission for its 12th launch, colorfully named "Don't Stop Me Now" after a 1978 Queen song.
With the launch, the space technology company plans to send payloads into space for NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and other customers, Rocket Lab announced in a statement.
The launch window for this mission will last about two weeks and will open March 27, with the Electron rocket ready to lift off from Rocket Lab's usual launchpad on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula.
"We created Electron to make getting to space easy for all, so it's gratifying to be meeting the needs of national security payloads and student research projects on the same mission," Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO, said in the statement.
The NASA-supported payload aboard this mission is a satellite from Boston University called ANDESITE, which stands for Ad-Hoc Network Demonstration for Extended Satellite-Based Inquiry and Other Team Endeavors. This satellite is designed to measure the magnetosphere (the region of space dominated by Earth's magnetic field) and examine electric currents flowing as a part of "space weather" — activity initiated by the sun. NASA and other agencies have a keen interest in following space weather to better protect satellites and Earth infrastructure (such as power lines) from the sun's activity.
With this mission, the NRO will send three of its payloads. While Rocket Lab has not yet provided many details about the payloads, in the statement the company said that these payloads were procured under the Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) contract vehicle to put small satellites in space quickly and cost-effectively. Rocket Lab's first dedicated NRO launch took place Jan. 31, 2020.
Also on board will be the M2 Pathfinder satellite, a joint initiative of the University of New South Wales Canberra Space and the Australian government. This satellite is designed to test communications and other technologies "that will assist in informing the future space capabilities of Australia," Rocket Lab said.
Although Rocket Lab is currently launching these payloads from New Zealand, the company will soon also be launching from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island in Virginia. This new launchpad will provide even easier and cheaper access for American customers seeking to launch their satellites , Rocket Lab has said. The first mission to launch from this new pad is expected in 2020.
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