Rocket Lab to Launch DARPA Satellite in February

Space.com | 1/23/2019 | Staff
tiazanne (Posted by) Level 3
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WASHINGTON — Small launch vehicle developer Rocket Lab will launch an experimental satellite for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in February, the first of a planned dozen launches in 2019.

Rocket Lab announced Jan. 22 that it will launch a small satellite for DARPA on the company's Electron rocket from its launch site in New Zealand. That launch will take place in February, likely late in the month, Rocket Lab Chief Executive Peter Beck said in an interview.

Satellite - Payload - Launch - Mass - Volume

The 150-kilogram satellite will be the only payload on the launch as it takes up all the mass and volume available on the rocket. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for R3D2, with the antenna provided by MMA Design and the satellite bus by Blue Canyon Technologies.

"It's particularly fitting to be flying the DARPA payload and demonstrating true responsive access to space," Beck said, noting that responsive space access had been a goal of a number of earlier DARPA projects. "It's great that we have DARPA as a customer to truly demonstrate that."

Department - Defense - Acquisition - Satellite - Launch

"The Department of Defense has prioritized rapid acquisition of small satellite and launch capabilities. By relying on commercial acquisition practices, DARPA streamlined the R3D2 mission from conception through launch services acquisition," Fred Kennedy, director of DARPA's Tactical Technology Office, said in a statement. The mission timeline, from satellite design and development through launch, will take about 18 months.

One issue for the upcoming launch is the need for a new launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, as this launch will be flying on a different trajectory than previous Electron launches licensed by the FAA. However, the FAA is not issuing new licenses amid the ongoing government shutdown.

Government - Beck - Customer - Channels

"We're hoping that the government will open up again soon," Beck said. "Our customer is working with the appropriate channels...
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