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Rocket Lab to launch Capella Space SAR satellite from NZ

Stephen Kuper

US launch company Rocket Lab has inked a launch contract with Capella Space to launch the first-ever synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite that delivers commercial data into a mid-inclination orbit to optimise hotspot monitoring of key regions in the world.

Rocket Lab to launch Capella Space SAR satellite from NZ
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Launching later this year, the mission will loft the first satellite of Capella Space’s Whitney constellation on an Electron launch vehicle from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula.

By positioning the satellite to a 45-degree inclination, Capella Space will maximise coverage over important areas such as the Middle East, Korea, Japan, south-east Asia, Africa and the US.

This launch paves the way for reliable and persistent imagery of anywhere on the globe, day or night, and in any weather conditions. Capella’s space-based radar can detect sub-0.5-metre changes on the surface of the Earth, providing insights and data that can be used for security, agricultural and infrastructure monitoring, as well as disaster response and recovery.  

Payam Banazadeh, chief executive of Capella Space, welcomed the announcement, saying, "At Capella Space, we help our customers solve some of the world’s biggest and most complex problems – from climate change to infrastructure monitoring – using on-demand, accurate Earth observation data."

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Capella Space will be the primary payload on the Electron launch vehicle, enabling Capella to select a specific orbit and launch timeline to meet its customer needs in terms of coverage, revisit and image quality.

"Launching our first Whitney satellite on a dedicated Rocket Lab mission allows us to stay in control of our orbit and focus on our goal to deliver customer-focused solutions in a timely manner," Banazadeh added. 

Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck reinforced the statements made by Banazadeh: "Our dedicated launch solution will get Capella Space on orbit faster, enabling them to focus on their core mission – providing reliable, up to the hour imagery data to inform everyday decisions down here on Earth.

"By launching on Electron, the team at Capella are in control of their mission every step of the way. The ability to book a launch quickly, have control over launch timing and select an exact orbit puts customers like Capella in the driver’s seat as they build out their constellations how and when they want to."

While the Capella Space mission is scheduled for mid-2020, Rocket Lab’s next Electron launch will be on the pad at Launch Complex 1 in late March. Details of the next mission and customer will be released in the coming week.

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