Next Rocket Lab mission to focus on satellites and R&D

Stephen Kuper

Rocket Lab has confirmed its next launch mission will carry satellites destined to begin a new constellation for UNSEENLABS, as well as more rideshare payloads for Spaceflight, consisting of a spacecraft for BlackSky and the US Air Force Space Command.

The mission is manifested with a CubeSat that will form the cornerstone of a new maritime surveillance constellation for French company UNSEENLABS. The constellation aims to deliver precise, reliable and secure maritime data, enabling organisations to monitor their own vessels and observe those that present risks, such as pirates and illegal vessels.

Mission management and ride-share aggregator Spaceflight also manifested three satellites on its second rideshare mission with Rocket Lab. Among the ride-share payloads is BlackSky’s Global-4 Earth-imaging satellite.

Rocket Lab senior vice president of global launch services, Lars Hoffman, said Rocket Lab’s ability to deploy multiple satellites to individual and precise orbits, even when flying as part of a ride-share mission, is a significant advantage for small satellite constellation operators.

"Our focus is on providing a frequent, reliable and precise launch service, whether small satellite constellation operators want to fly as a dedicated payload or as part of a ride-share mission," Hoffman said. 

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The satellite will join BlackSky Global-3, which was launched to low-Earth orbit on an Electron vehicle in June 2019. BlackSky’s constellation delivers rapid-revisit satellite imagery to assist with monitoring economic activity such as crop development and herd migration, or surveying damage following natural disasters.

"Rocket Lab’s innovative Kick Stage enables a level of flexibility and precision that simply wasn’t available to small satellite operators until Electron began orbital launches 18 months ago. We’re proud to be delivering that service to orbit every few weeks now," Hoffman said. 

The final spacecraft manifested on the mission are two experimental satellites for the US Air Force Space Command, designed to test new technologies including propulsion, power, communications and drag capabilities for potential applications on future spacecraft.

The mission will be Rocket Lab’s eighth Electron launch overall and fourth mission of 2019, following on from the successful ‘Make It Rain’ mission for Spaceflight in late June. Rocket Lab has monthly missions scheduled for the remainder of 2019 for government and commercial small satellites.

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