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Rocket Lab set to try its first US-based launch again

A previous launch of the Electron from New Zealand.
Enlarge / A previous launch of the Electron from New Zealand.

Rocket Lab

On Tuesday, Rocket Lab will try again to send its first payloads to orbit from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in Virginia. With clear skies and a launch window that opens after sunset, the launch has the potential to be visible on most of the Eastern Seaboard and as far west as Ohio.

While Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle has a solid track record of launches from New Zealand, the use of Virginia would represent a big step forward for both the company and MARS itself. Having a US-based launch site allows the company to reach trajectories that aren’t available from New Zealand and opens up opportunities for US government work, some of which require launches from within the country.

For MARS, which is based at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Rocket Lab would represent its second major commercial customer. NASA operates small sounding rockets from the site, and Orbital ATK has flown resupply missions to the International Space Station from there. But the Electron is a small launch vehicle that can allow a rapid cadence of launches and could boost the traffic from MARS considerably. Perhaps more significantly, Rocket Lab is using Wallops for the development of its larger reusable Neutron rocket, which would both launch and land at MARS.

Tonight’s launch has a two-hour window that opens at 6 pm Eastern and will go early in that window if all goes well. Previous attempts were made in December, but paperwork and weather issues pushed things back past the holiday break.

We’ll embed a livestream here when it becomes available.

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