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Rocket Lab Gears up for Historic NASA Cubesat Mission

By | December 7, 2018
Rocket Lab Electron

Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle. Photo: Rocket Lab

U.S. small satellite launch company Rocket Lab is gearing up for the company’s third orbital launch of the year, the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa)-19 mission for NASA. The launch is a significant moment for the small satellite industry, as it’s the first time NASA cubesats will enjoy a dedicated ride to orbit on a commercial launch vehicle, due to NASA’s forward-leaning Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) initiative. VCLS is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program headquartered at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A nine-day launch window for the ELaNa-19 mission will open between Dec. 13 and 21, UTC. Within this window, lift-off is scheduled between 04:00 and 08:00 UTC from Rocket Lab’s private orbital launch site, Launch Complex 1, on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula.

The mission will see Rocket Lab’s Electron vehicle loft multiple cubesats to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for NASA. Electron will carry approximately 78 kilograms of payload, which will be deployed to a 500 kilometer circular orbit at an 85 degree inclination by Rocket Lab’s kick stage.