Rocket Lab Launches ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ Mission for NASA, NRO and UNSW Canberra Space

Rocket Lab launched its ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ mission carrying satellites for NASA, the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra Space.

The lift-off of the Electron rocket occurred at 05:12 UTC on June 13 from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula.

The ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ mission carried Boston University’s ANDESITE satellite which was launched as part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI), three NRO payloads and UNSW Canberra Space’s M2 Pathfinder satellite. The mission was named ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ in recognition of Rocket Lab board member and avid Queen fan Scott Smith, who recently passed away.

The ‘mission is Rocket Lab’s 12th Electron launch since the company began launches in May 2017. The company did not carry out any recovery testing on the Electron launch vehicle during the mission.

Boston University’s ANDESITE Satellite – NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI)

The rideshare mission launched several small satellites, including the ANDESITE (Ad-Hoc Network Demonstration for Extended Satellite-Based Inquiry and Other Team Endeavors) satellite created by electrical and mechanical engineering students and professors at Boston University.

The satellite was launched as part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) and will conduct a groundbreaking scientific study into Earth’s magnetic field. Once operational, the ANDESITE satellite will conduct measurements of the magnetosphere with onboard sensors, releasing eight pico satellites carrying small magnetometer sensors to track electric currents flowing in and out of the atmosphere, a phenomenon also known as space weather. These variations in electrical activity racing through space can have a big impact on the lives here on Earth, causing interruptions to things like radio communications and electrical systems.

The ANDESITE satellite follows on from Rocket Lab’s first ELaNa (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites) launch for NASA, the ELaNa-19 mission, which launched a host of educational satellites to orbit on Electron in December 2018.

NRO Payloads

The mission also carried three payloads designed, built and operated by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The mission was procured under the agency’s Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) contract vehicle. RASR allows the NRO to explore new launch opportunities that provide a streamlined, commercial approach for getting small satellites into space, as well as provide those working in the small satellite community with timely and cost-effective access to space.

This mission follows Rocket Lab’s first dedicated mission for the NRO, Birds of a Feather, which was launched on 31 January 2020 NZT from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1.

M2 Pathfinder satellite – UNSW Canberra Space

The ANDESITE and NRO payloads were joined on the mission by the M2 Pathfinder satellite, a collaboration between University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra Space and the Australian Government. The M2 Pathfinder will test communications architecture and other technologies that will assist in informing the future space capabilities of Australia. The satellite will demonstrate the ability of an onboard software-based radio to operate and reconfigure while in orbit.

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