Rocket Lab will launch two satellites tonight (Dec. 8), and you can watch the action live.
A Rocket Lab Electron launcher carrying two commercial Earth-observation spacecraft is scheduled to lift off from the company’s New Zealand site Wednesday during a 125-minute window that opens at 6:45 p.m. EST (2345 GMT; 12:45 p.m. on Dec. 9 local New Zealand time.)
You can watch the launch live here at Space.com courtesy of Rocket Lab or directly via the company. Coverage will start about 15 minutes before liftoff.
The mission, which Rocket Lab calls “A Data With Destiny,” will loft the 10th and 11th “Gen-2” satellites for a constellation operated by the company BlackSky.
“BlackSky combines high-resolution images captured by its constellation of microsatellites with its proprietary Spectra AI software platform to deliver analytics and insights to government customers and industries including transportation, infrastructure, land use and supply chain management,” Rocket Lab wrote in a mission press kit, which you can find here.
If all goes according to plan, the two BlackSky satellites will be deployed about 270 miles (430 kilometers) above Earth by one hour after liftoff.
“A Data With Destiny” will be Rocket Lab’s sixth Electron launch of 2021 and the 23rd overall for the 59-foot-tall (18 meters) rocket, which gives small satellites dedicated rides to space.
The most recent Electron mission, which launched on Nov. 17, also lofted two BlackSky Gen-2 satellites. During that successful flight, Rocket Lab recovered the Electron’s first stage, which came down for a controlled, parachute-aided splashdown in the Pacific Ocean shortly after liftoff.
The recovery work is part of Rocket Lab’s quest to make the Electron’s first stage reusable, a modification that the company says will boost launch rates and save money for it and its customers. The ultimate reuse plan calls for a helicopter to snatch falling boosters out of the sky, and Rocket Lab took a big step toward that goal with the Nov. 17 launch, using a chopper to track the descending stage and practice the communications that would be employed during a catch attempt.
There will be no recovery attempt during “A Data With Destiny,” Rocket Lab representatives said.
—Rocket Lab: Private spaceflight company for small satellites
—Rocket Lab and its Electron booster (photos)
—Rocket Lab plans to snag falling boosters with a helicopter and refly them
“A Data With Destiny” will be the third liftoff Rocket Lab performs under a multilaunch deal it signed with BlackSky earlier this year. The first contracted mission, which launched on May 15, failed to deliver two Gen-2 satellites to orbit; the Electron suffered an anomaly in its upper stage engine igniter system and both spacecraft were lost (though the booster’s first stage did perform a soft splashdown as planned and was recovered).
The Nov. 17 mission, called “Love At First Insight,” successfully delivered the two satellites to the desired orbit.