Small satellite launch provider, Rocket Lab will launch a dedicated mission for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the company announced on Jan. 20.
The mission, designated NROL-151, is scheduled to launch aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket on Jan. 31 (NZT) from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 facility in Mahia, New Zealand. The NROL-151 mission, also named ‘Birds of a Feather’, is the first mission for both NRO and Rocket Lab this year.
“The NRO looks forward to its new partnership with Rocket Lab and its continued partnership with New Zealand, a Five Eyes partner, on the NROL-151 mission”, said and NRO statement.
The NRO competitively awarded the contract under the Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) contract vehicle. RASR allows the NRO to explore new launch opportunities that can provide a streamlined, commercial approach for getting small satellites into space. The Jan. 31 launch is the first one under the RASR contract.
Rocket Lab’s Senior Vice President – Global Launch Services, Lars Hoffman, says the Electron vehicle is uniquely placed to deliver the kind of frequent, rapidly-acquired launch opportunities required by the NRO and other government agencies to ensure resiliency in space.
“We are honored the NRO has selected Rocket Lab as the launch provider for this dedicated mission. The Electron launch vehicle is perfectly positioned to provide the kind of rapid and responsive access to space that puts the NRO in complete control over their own launch schedule and orbital requirements,” Mr. Hoffman says. “As the industry shifts toward the disaggregation of large, geostationary spacecraft, Electron enables unprecedented access to space to support a resilient layer of government small satellite infrastructure.”
Rocket Lab has been launching to orbit since January 2018 and is now the world’s leading dedicated small satellite launch provider. Rocket Lab remains the only launch provider capable of meeting the rapid-acquisition and launch requirements of dedicated small satellite missions for the U.S. government. Rocket Lab has delivered 47 satellites to orbit on the Electron launch vehicle, enabling operations in space debris mitigation, Earth observation, ship and airplane tracking, and radio communications