Watch US spy satellite launch into orbit by rival SpaceX

Rocket Lab has successfully launched a spy satellite into orbit for the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

Rocket Lab’s workhorse Electron rocket blasted the satellite into space from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula early Thursday.

The launch was originally scheduled for earlier in the week, but was canceled due to winds being so strong that you had to “walk with an incline”, according to Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck.

Calmer conditions eventually prevailed, clearing the way for the Electron to carry the secret NRO payload into space. A video (below) shared by Rocket Lab shows the first steps of the flight.

MISSION SUCCESS! Electron’s Kick Stage has successfully deployed the @NatReconOfC‘s payload into orbit. Welcome to your new home in space, #NROL199!

—RocketLab (@RocketLab) August 4, 2022

Thursday’s NROL-199 mission, dubbed Antipodean Adventure, marked the second of two consecutive Rocket Lab flights for the NRO following the July 13 launch of NROL-162.

According to Rocket Lab, the payload was deployed in partnership with the Australian Department of Defense for cooperative satellite activities.

Because it’s a spy satellite, no one involved in the mission is giving away much, though Rocket Lab said it would allow the NRO to provide “critical information to government agencies and policymakers monitoring international issues.” .

Based in California but launching its 28 space missions to date from Beck’s home country of New Zealand, Rocket Lab competes with SpaceX and Virgin Orbit as a launch service provider.

Most of Rocket Lab’s missions have involved deployments of small satellites for a range of private companies and government organizations, although with a new, more powerful rocket design in the works, it also plans larger satellite deployments. and is even considering crewed flights. .

One of its most notable missions in recent months involved the launch of the CAPSTONE satellite, which plays an important role in NASA’s preparations for a new era of lunar exploration. The satellite will test a possible lunar orbit for the Gateway, a space station that should provide support for long-term crewed missions to the moon.

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