The small satellite launch Rocket Lab announced the company’s second launch site, the launch site at the Mid-Atlantic Space Center on Wallops Island, Virginia, on the morning of December 12, local time,media reported. The launch site, known as Launch Complex 2, will be put into service with Rocket Lab’s main launch site in New Zealand to increase the company’s launch frequency over the next few years.
Rocket Lab has flown 10 times with its Electron rocket since launching the rocket in 2017. The Electron rocket is a relatively small vehicle, only 55 feet high, and aims to take advantage of the satellite’s recent trend of smaller, cheaper payloads into low-orbit orbits above Earth. So far, Electron has made almost seamless commercial flights, launching a total of 47 satellites. All flights took place at the Rocket Lab launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula.
Rocket Lab wants to achieve more flights, with the ultimate goal of launching 130 times a year. With such an ambitious goal, the company decided to open a second launch site in the U.S. to satisfy more customers. Wallops is not understood to be as busy as NASA’s other large spaceport, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Announcing the location, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck told the media that Cape Canaveral was doing a lot of work and that Wallops Island was relatively quiet.
Rocket Lab said the new launch site would make it easier for some U.S. satellite operators to deliver payloads to launch pads.
“The two rocket laboratory launch sites will provide more than 130 launch opportunities per year, and our customers will have unparalleled control over launch schedules and orbital requirements,” Beck said in a statement. Rocket Lab has made frequent, reliable and rapid access to space the new normal for small satellites. “Currently, Rocket Lab is launched every two months.
Rocket Lab is understood to have taken less than a year to build the Wallops Island launch site, and it will carry out its first launch mission in the second quarter of next year. At that time, it will launch an experimental microsatellite monolith for the U.S. Navy. The satellite will test whether a small vehicle can carry a payload for studying space weather. Earlier this year, Rocket Lab launched three satellites for the same Air Force program.