Space IT Bridge Editor-in-Chief was fortunate enough to bump into Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck last week at NASA Wallops Island in Virginia and ask him about Electron rocket operations at the company’s newly opened Launch Complex 2. This is the editor’s best recollection of the conversation and any mis-statements are entirely his fault.
Rocket Lab “plans to do first stage recovery” of the Electron rockets at the NASA Wallops Islands complex at some point in the future, CEO Peter Beck said, but logistics might be a bit more challenging given the open water downrange. The launch trajectory from LC-1 in New Zealand goes over an island downrange that can be used to stage recovery operations.
Beck said that future expansions are “most likely” to include the construction of a second pad at LC-2 to increase launch frequency and to take down the existing pad for maintenance as necessary.
All pads are designed to be used in a variety of weather conditions, providing air conditioning to the Electron where needed. Weather at Wallops Island hits the “extremes” more compared to LC-2, being colder and hotter. “We’ll be able to load cryo [fuel) in cold weather faster… in hot weather slower,” Beck said. “We may have cause for pause” at extremes of temperature.
In case of a launch mishap either with a Rocket Lab Electron or the much larger Northrup Grumman Antares, all liability issues have been clearly documented. Legal responsibilities of launch users on the complex were less clear before the loss of the Orbital OA-3 mission, with the state of Virginia picking up the tab for some repairs to put the pad back into service.
Finally, Beck hasn’t formally talked with Island Creamery, the local ice cream shop, about a flavor for Rocket Lab. Island Creamery, a favorite of Beck’s and others visiting the area, created the “Rocket Fuel” flavor as a nod to the NASA Wallops Island complex and its history of launches.
“Maybe kiwi [sherbet],” Beck said. “Or something with black licorice,” in reference to Rocket Lab’s colors and the carbon-fiber black of the Electron rocket.