The private spaceflight company Rocket Lab will loft a small satellite for the California-based firm Astro Digital from New Zealand next week in a last-minute mission swap for the commercial launch company
A Rocket Lab Electron booster will launch no earlier than Monday (Oct. 14, October 15 NZDT) from the company’s Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula. The flight, Rocket Lab’s fifth of 2019, will carry a satellite for Astro Digital’s Corvus Platform.
Based in Santa Clara, California, Astro Digital is a satellite manufacturer and operator that provides CubeSats and small satellites for Earth observation, satellite communications and technology demonstration missions. Astro Digital was originally scheduled to launch on a later Electron flight, but snagged the upcoming opportunity after a different undisclosed Rocket Lab customer, asked to delay its mission, Rocket Lab representatives said in a statement.
“By manufacturing standard Electron launch vehicles, rather than rockets tailored to specific missions, Rocket Lab can facilitate rapid manifest changes that support the responsive needs of small satellite operators,” they wrote in the statement. “Rocket Lab augments this flexibility by operating the world’s only private orbital launch range, providing small satellite customers with unmatched launch schedule control.”
Rocket Lab decided to nickname this mission “As the Crow Flies”after Astro Digital’s Corvus Platform. Corvus being a large genus of birds that includes crows. Rocket Lab has traditionally picked wild names for its Electron missions.
“We are honored Astro Digital has selected Rocket Lab as the launch provider for their dedicated mission,” Lars Hoffman, Rocket Lab’s senior vice president of global launch services, said in the statement. “With Electron and our own launch sites, Rocket Lab is uniquely placed to give small satellite operators complete control over their own launch schedule and orbital requirements,” he added.
“As The Crow Flies” will mark Rocket Lab’s ninth mission since its Electron boosters began flying in 2017.
The Huntington Beach, California-based company is also developing a reusable rocket system to capture Electron booster first stages in midair with a helicopter. A second Electron launchpad, called Launch Complex 2, is under construction at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.