Rocket Lab will launch seven satellites to Earth orbit today (March 22), and you can watch the action live.
A Rocket Lab Electron booster is scheduled to lift off from the company’s New Zealand launch site today at 6:30 p.m. EDT (2230 GMT), on a mission dubbed “They Go Up So Fast.” Watch it live here at Space.com, courtesy of Rocket Lab, or directly via the company. Coverage will begin about 15 minutes before the scheduled launch.
“They Go Up So Fast” will be the 19th Electron launch, and its payloads will bring the total number of satellites lofted by the 58-foot-tall (18 meters), two-stage booster to 104, Rocket Lab representatives said.
In photos: Rocket Lab and its Electron booster
The seven payloads going up today are a diverse lot. There’s an Earth-observation satellite for the company BlackSky, for example, and two “Internet of Things” nanosatellites, one for Fleet Space and one for Myriota.
Also aboard are three experimental satellites — one for the University of New South Wales Canberra Space, a weather-satellite technology demonstration from Care Weather Technologies, and a tech demo for the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command.
The seventh payload is one of Rocket Lab’s own Photon satellites. The spacecraft, which the company calls “Pathstone,” will be the second Photon to reach orbit, after the “First Light” vehicle, which launched in August 2020.
Like First Light, Pathstone will serve a risk-reduction mission in Earth orbit.
“Photon Pathstone will demonstrate power management, thermal control and attitude control subsystems, as well as newly integrated technologies including deep-space radio capability, an upgraded RCS (reaction control system) for precision pointing in space, and sun sensors and star trackers,” Rocket Lab representatives wrote in a mission description.
Such work will help Rocket Lab prepare for Photon missions to distant destinations. NASA has already booked a ride to the moon via Electron and Photon for its CAPSTONE (“Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment”) cubesat, a mission that’s scheduled to launch later this year.
And Rocket Lab plans to start launching self-funded Venus missions in the next few years using the Electron-Photon duo.
The company is also working to make Electron’s first stage reusable and even recovered a booster on a prior mission. But the “They Go Up So Fast” press kit, which you can find here, does not mention any recovery efforts on tap for today.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.