Rocket Lab launches 2 satellites to orbit on 2nd Electron mission from US soil

Rocket Lab's second launch from U.S. soil was a success.

A Rocket Lab Electron booster lifted off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia Thursday (March 16) at 6:38 p.m. EDT (2238 GMT), kicking off a mission the company called "Stronger Together."

Just under an hour later, the 59-foot-tall (18 meters) Electron's kick stage deployed two radar-imaging satellites for San Francisco-based company Capella Space into a circular orbit about 370 miles (600 kilometers) above Earth as planned.

"Mission success for @capellaspace with our second launch from Launch Complex 2, Virginia! We've now launched 34 Electron missions total, deploying 157 satellites to space," Rocket Lab tweeted (opens in new tab) just after the deployment.

Related: Rocket Lab launches 1st Electron booster from US soil in twilight liftoff

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The two new satellites are joining Capella Space's SAR (synthetic aperture radar) constellation, which provides customers with detailed imagery of Earth both day and night, in all weather conditions.

These spacecraft allow "Capella Space to deliver the highest quality, highest resolution SAR imagery commercially available with the fastest order-to-delivery time, empowering organizations across the public and private sector to make informed, accurate decisions," Rocket Lab representatives wrote in the mission's press kit, which you can find here (opens in new tab).

Rocket Lab has now launched 34 orbital missions with the two-stage Electron to date, all but two of them from its Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. The other Virginia flight, a mission named "Virginia Is for Launch Lovers," lifted off from Wallops on Jan. 24 of this year.

The Wallops site, Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 2 (LC-2), will get more and more action over the coming months, if all goes according to plan.

LC-2 "is designed to serve the responsive space needs of commercial, civil, defense and national security customers, supporting up to 12 missions per year," Rocket Lab wrote in a statement (opens in new tab).

Rocket Lab has been working to make the expendable Electron's first stage reusable; the company has recovered boosters on several previous missions, even plucking a falling rocket out of the sky with a helicopter on one occasion. But there was no such recovery attempt on "Stronger Together."

Editor's note: This story, originally posted at 6 a.m. ET on March 11, was updated on March 13 to reflect a new launch date of March 15 at 6 p.m. ET, then updated again on March 14 with the new launch date of March 16. It was updated again at 8 p.m. EDT on March 16 with news of successful launch and satellite deployment.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).  

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com (opens in new tab) and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.