By Carol Vaughn —
Rocket Lab announced Tuesday the inaugural launch of its Electron rocket from the Wallops Island spaceport will carry a mission for HawkEye 360, a Virginia-based radio frequency geopspatial analytics provider.
The company contracted with Rocket Lab to launch three missions using the Electron rocket, according to a press release.
“I’m thrilled to welcome HawkEye 360 onto Electron’s manifest and especially looking forward to launching our inaugural mission from Launch Complex 2 in Virginia. Operating multiple Electron pads across both hemispheres opens up incredible flexibility for our customers and delivers assured access to space, something we know is becoming increasingly critical as launch availability wanes worldwide. This contract also demonstrates continued execution on our vertical integration strategy, in this case bringing reliable launch and flight proven separation systems under one roof to streamline the integration and launch process for HawkEye 360,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and chief executive officer.
Rocket Lab, founded in 2006, also has two launch pads in New Zealand.
The multiple-mission contract is for Rocket Lab to deliver 15 satellites, in five clusters, to low-earth orbit. The missions are expected to take place between late 2022 and 2024.
Rocket Lab will first deploy three HawkEye 360 satellites as part of a ride-share mission, followed by six satellites each on two dedicated launches.
Rocket Lab also will supply HawkEye 360 with separation systems produced by Planetary Systems Corp., a Maryland space hardware company Rocket Lab acquired in December 2021.
“Rocket Lab provides the flexibility we need to fill out our constellation and reach our desired orbits. Their service will drive down our revisit rates in midlatitude AOIs, bringing a higher density of data to our customers. We’re excited to be joining the inaugural launch from Virginia, as a Virginia-based company launching our satellites from our home state,” said Rob Rainhart, HawkEye 360 chief operating officer.
The missions will add to HawkEye 360’s constellation of radio frequency monitoring satellites, “enabling the company to better deliver precise mapping of radio frequency emissions anywhere in the world,” according to the release.
HawkEye 360 combines that data with analytical tools and algorithms to provide commercial and government customers information that has helped detect illegal fishing, poaching in national parks, GPS radio frequency interference along international borders, and emergency beacons, according to the release.
Rocket Lab scheduled the first mission from Virginia for no earlier than December, with the release saying the company is “encouraged by NASA’s recent progress in certifying its Autonomous Flight Termination Unit (NAFTU) software, which is required to enable Electron launches from Wallops.
The company recently broke ground on a manufacturing complex just across the bridge from the Wallops Island spaceport for its new 131-foot, carbon composite Neutron rocket, which will be able to carry heavier payloads than the 56-foot-tall Electron.