The Electron rocket successfully placed into orbit three satellites of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) on Saturday, as well as small spacecraft of NASA and Australian University, said the U.S. carrier development company Rocket Lab.
The three-stage Electron rocket with a mission called Don’t Stop Me Now was launched from the Rocket Lab launch site on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand at 05:12 UTC.
Approximately one hour after the launch, all the spacecraft entered normal orbit.
Data on secret American satellites are not disclosed. NRO did not provide any information about the purpose and characteristics of the spacecraft, their weight, and the orbit into which they are launched. The launch for NRO was conducted within the framework of the program, the essence of which is the use of U.S. military small carriers of private companies to launch into space small cargo and deployment of groups of cheap mini-satellites in low orbits.
In addition to secret satellites, ANDESITE, which is designed to study the Earth’s magnetic field, has been placed in orbit for NASA. It was created by students and teachers at Boston University’s Center for Space Physics. The M2 Pathfinder belongs to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and was launched to test communications architecture and other technologies.
This is the second launch of the Electron rocket by Rocket Lab with NRO reconnaissance satellites: the first was in January.
Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket can launch up to 250 kg of cargo into a low support orbit, the cost of launch – from 4.9 to 6.6 million dollars, which is much cheaper than the launch of medium- and heavy class missiles. Thus, the Rocket Lab seeks to revolutionize the market for space rocket services.
The Don’t Stop Me Now the mission was the twelfth launch of the Electron rocket. Originally scheduled for late March, it was postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.