Thursday, January 12, 2023

Electron rocket ready to launch satellites for HawkEye 360

NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility will support the launch of Rocket Lab USA’s Electron rocket from Virginia on Jan. 24. Rocket Lab has already conducted 32 Electron launches from their launch site in New Zealand. This will be their first Electron launch from the United States.

The 59-foot-tall Electron rocket will lift off from Launch Complex 2 at Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island. The “Virginia is for Launch Lovers” mission will deploy radio frequency monitoring satellites for HawkEye 360.

The launch window for the mission is 6-8 p.m. EST.

With clear skies, residents throughout much of the US East Coast could get a glimpse of the rocket launch in the night sky after liftoff. Viewers from southern Maine, down to Georgia, and as far west as Kentucky, may see the launch.

Viewing locations at nearby Chincoteague Island include Robert Reed Park on Main Street or Beach Road spanning the area between Chincoteague and Assateague Islands. The Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware beaches also provide good viewing locations.

The US Post Office in Assawoman is also a popular viewing location for a Wallops launch. The Post Office is just a few miles from the launch pad.

This will be the first launch to use the jointly-developed Pegasus automated flight termination system for U.S. Electron launches derived from NASA’s Autonomous Flight Termination Unit (NAFTU). The FAA has approved both NAFTU and Pegasus to support this flight. The NASA Wallops Range Safety team has verified that Rocket Lab has met all NASA launch range safety criteria to move forward with launch operations.

HawkEye 360 satellite constellation

The “Virginia is for Launch Lovers” mission will deploy three satellites for HawkEye 360, Inc., based in Herndon, Va. The three satellites, known as Cluster 6, will monitor and deliver precise geolocation of radio frequency (RF) emissions anywhere in the world and map their locations.

This is the first of three dedicated Rocket Lab flights contracted by HawkEye 360.

“We’re proud to be a Virginia-based company, with Virginia-developed technology, launching out of the Virginia spaceport,” said HawkEye 360 CEO John Serafini in a company press release.

The launch of Cluster 6 will mean HawkEye 360 will have placed 15 next-generation satellites into orbit within two years. This rapid pace will continue in 2023, with Cluster 7 anticipated to launch in February and Clusters 8 and 9 mid-year. Once Cluster 6 is commissioned, HawkEye 360 will be able to collect RF data as frequently as every hour anywhere in the world.

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