Rocket Lab has signed a launch agreement with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) for two back-to-back, dedicated smallsat missions aboard an Electron launch vehicle.
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 RASR-3 and RASR-4 missions are scheduled for launch within weeks of each other in late spring 2021 from two separate pads at Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 (LC-1).
By launching the missions separately from pads LC-1A and LC-1B, 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 of Launch Complex 1 Pad B commenced in December 2019 and will be complete by the end of this year. Pad LC-1B 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.
The RASR-3 and RASR-4 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.
“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 SVP 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.”