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Rocket Lab Scrubs Launch of Experimental DARPA Military Satellite

A fueled Rocket Lab Electron booster carrying the R3D2 antenna technology demonstration satellite for DARPA stands atop its Mahia Peninsula launch site in New Zealand during a launch attempt on March 24, 2019 EDT (March 25 New Zealand time).
A fueled Rocket Lab Electron booster carrying the R3D2 antenna technology demonstration satellite for DARPA stands atop its Mahia Peninsula launch site in New Zealand during a launch attempt on March 24, 2019 EDT (March 25 New Zealand time).
(Image: © Rocket Lab)

The small-satellite launch company Rocket Lab called off the planned flight of an experimental satellite for the U.S. military Sunday (March 24) due to a video transmitter issue. 

Rocket Lab was counting down to a 7:36 p.m. EDT (2336 GMT) launch of its Electron booster from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand's Māhia Peninsula when the glitch occurred, the company said in Twitter update.  

"The team has identified a video transmitter 13dB down with low performance," Rocket Lab said in the Twitter post. "It's not an issue for flight, but we want to understand why, so we're waiving off for the day."

Related: Rocket Lab's 1st Commercial Launch in Pictures

The R3D2 prototype spacecraft antenna is seen in packed and deployed positions. DARPA will launch the satellite test flight on a Rocket Lab Electron booster.

The R3D2 prototype spacecraft antenna is seen in packed and deployed positions. DARPA will launch the antenna on a test flight soon using a Rocket Lab Electron. (Image credit: DARPA)

The Electron is carrying the prototype R3D2 space antenna in a test flight for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. 

R3D2's seemingly "Star Wars" droid-inspired name is short for Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration. The spacecraft carries a novel antenna design that is tightly packed for launch and will unfurl to a span of 7.3 feet (2.3 meters) once fully deployed.

The antenna is made of an ultra-thin Kapton membrane, which will be tested for its communications effectiveness on this flight, DARPA officials have said. The entire R3D2 satellite weighs about 330 lbs. (150 kilograms).  

"R3D2 will monitor antenna deployment dynamics, survivability and radio frequency (RF) characteristics of a membrane antenna in low-Earth orbit," DARPA officials said in a statement. "The antenna could enable multiple missions that currently require large satellites, to include high data rate communications to disadvantaged users on the ground."

 Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom and Facebook.  

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