WASHINGTON, Jan 24 (Reuters) – Rocket Lab (RKLB.O) launched its first mission from U.S. soil on Tuesday, kicking off an expansion of the company’s launch activity that adds to an increase in private rocket business in U.S. spaceports.
The Long Beach, Calif.-based company’s Electron rocket, a 40-foot-tall expandable launch vehicle, lifted off at 6:00 p.m. EST from its new launch pad at the NASA-operated Wallops Flight Facility on the Wallops Island, Virginia.
The mission marked Rocket Lab’s first outside its flagship launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula, where the company has flown all 32 previous Electron missions since the rocket’s 2017 debut.
Rocket Lab secured an agreement to use the Launch Complex 2 site in Virginia in 2018.
Tuesday’s mission had been delayed several times, first by nearly a year during a lengthy certification review of Electron’s automated flight termination system, then a few more weeks due to the bad weather in Virginia.
The mission was otherwise routine for Rocket Lab, sending three satellites into orbit for radio frequency analysis firm Hawkeye 360.
The company confirmed at 7:34 p.m. that the Hawkeye satellites had been successfully deployed into orbit.
Virginia-based Rocket Lab’s inaugural mission comes as US regulators adjust to a surge in private rocket launches, mostly piloted by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The rise is expected to rise as a handful of U.S. launch startups plan to launch their rockets into space for the first time in 2023.
Reporting by Joey Roulette Editing by Chris Reese and Sandra Maler
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. Rocket Lab expands its footprint launch with first mission of USA