Watch U.S. spy sat get launched to orbit by SpaceX rival
Rocket Lab has successfully launched a spy satellite to orbit for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Rocket Lab’s workhorse Electron rocket blasted the satellite to space from Launch Complex-1 at Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, early on Thursday ET.
The launch was originally scheduled for earlier in the week but was called off due to winds so strong that you had to “walk with a slant,” according to Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck. Calmer conditions eventually prevailed, paving the way for the Electron to lift the NRO’s secretive payload to space. A video (below) shared by Rocket Lab shows the early stages of the flight.
Electron's Kick Stage has successfully deployed the @NatReconOfC's payload to orbit. Welcome to your new home in space, #NROL199! pic.twitter.com/hOOryOsATG — Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) August 4, 2022
Thursday’s NROL-199 mission, dubbed “Antipodean Adventure,” marked the the second of two back-to-back Rocket Lab flights for the NRO after NROL-162 launched on July 13.
According to Rocket Lab, the payload was deployed in partnership with the Australian Department of Defence for cooperative satellite activities. As it’s a spy satellite, no one involved in the mission is giving much away, though Rocket Lab said it will enable the NRO to provide “critical information to government agencies and decision makers monitoring international issues.” Headquartered in California but launching all 28 of its space missions to date from Beck’s home country of New Zealand, Rocket Lab is competing with the likes of SpaceX and Virgin Orbit as a launch service provider.
Most of Rocket Lab’s missions have involved small-satellite deployments for a range of private firms and governmental organizations, though with a new, more powerful rocket design in the works, it also has plans for deployments of larger satellites, and is even eyeing crewed flights.
One of its more notable missions in recent months involved the launch of the CAPSTONE satellite, which is playing an important role in NASA’s preparations for a new era of moon exploration.
The satellite will be testing a possible lunar orbit for the Gateway, a space station that’s set to provide support for long-term crewed missions to the moon.