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Rocket Lab to launch Synspective Earth observation mission

Stephen Kuper

Rocket Lab has announced a launch mission for Japanese Earth-imaging company Synspective as the customer for Rocket Lab’s 17th Electron launch, and its seventh mission of the year.

Rocket Lab to launch Synspective Earth observation mission
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The dedicated mission for Synspective is scheduled for lift-off during a 14-day launch window opening on 12 December UTC and will launch from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula to a targeted 500-kilometre circular low-Earth orbit.

The mission is named ‘The Owl’s Night Begins’ in a nod to Synspective’s StriX family of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) spacecraft developed to be able to image millimetre-level changes to the Earth’s surface from space, independent of weather conditions on Earth and at any time of the day or night. Strix is also the genus of owls.

Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said, "We’re honoured to be providing the ride to orbit for Synspective and playing a pivotal role in deploying the first satellite of their constellation. By flying as a dedicated mission on Electron, the Synspective team have complete control over their orbit and launch schedule, giving them a degree of certainty over a crucial time in their business development."

The StriX-α satellite onboard this mission will be the first of a series of spacecraft deployments for Synspective’s planned constellation of more than 30 SAR small satellites to collate data of metropolitan centres across Asia on a daily basis that can be used for urban development planning, construction and infrastructure monitoring, and disaster response.

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For this mission, Rocket Lab will utilise a custom expanded fairing to encompass Synspective’s wide-body satellite – the first use of the expanded fairing options that Rocket Lab recently introduced alongside a suite of vehicle performance improvements, including advances in battery technology, which enable an improved payload lift capacity up to 300 kilograms.

Synspective founder and CEO Dr Motoyuki Arai added, "We are so happy to share this commemorable launch of our first satellite, the StriX-α, together with Rocket Lab. This is just the start of a 30 SAR satellites constellation. We are very excited to begin the scaling of our business, which includes both SAR satellites and downstream solutions."

Rocket Lab will also perform an advanced mid-mission manoeuvre with its Kick Stage space tug that will shield the StriX-α satellite from the sun to reduce radiation exposure ahead of payload deployment.

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