Rocket Lab Awarded Contract for Two Dedicated Back-to-Back Missions for U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)

Rocket Lab has signed a launch agreement with the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) for two back-to-back dedicated small satellite missions aboard its Electron rocket.

The missions were awarded through the NRO’s Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) contract, an initiative that enables the agency to explore new opportunities for launching small satellites through a streamlined, commercial approach. The NRO is the U.S. Government agency in charge of designing, building, launching, and maintaining America’s intelligence satellites and is a member of the United States Intelligence Community (IC).

The two missions, named RASR-3 and RASR-4, are scheduled for launch within weeks of each other in late spring 2021 from two separate pads at Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. The missions follow on from two recent Rocket Lab launches for the NRO; the “Birds of a Feather” mission in January 2020, and the `Don’t Stop Me Now’ mission in June 2020.

Rocket Lab ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ Mission Launch
Rocket Lab launched its Electron rocket ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ mission at 05:12 UTC on June 13 from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. Rocket Lab Photo.

By launching the two NRO missions separately from Pads A and B, Rocket Lab is able to eliminate the pad recycle time typically required when launching from a single pad. This unique ability enables Rocket Lab to launch missions just days or even hours apart, “making truly responsive space a reality for small satellite operators and the U.S. national security community”.

Construction on Launch Complex 1 Pad B commenced in December 2019 and will be complete by the end of this year. Pad B is Rocket Lab’s third launch pad, joining the existing pad at Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, as well as the new pad at Launch Complex 2 at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia, USA.

“Maintaining resilient space architecture and having the ability to deploy assets exactly when and where they’re needed is paramount for U.S. national security in these dynamic times,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab Founder and CEO. “We’re proud to continue enabling that flexible, responsive space access and once again deliver a proven launch solution for the NRO and the nation.”

Lars Hoffman, Rocket Lab’s Senior Vice President of Global Launch Services, said “Given the threat to space capabilities posed by potential adversaries, there simply cannot be a waiting room to get on orbit. With Electron launch vehicles on standby for rapid call-up and three launch pads capable of supporting up to 130 missions per year we stand ready to respond to the national security community’s needs with speed and precision, every time. We look forward to working with the dedicated team at the NRO once again for these important missions.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.