Rocket Lab Electron on pad (Source: Rocket Lab)

Rocket Lab announces 3 back-to-back launches for BlackSky imaging satellites

Rocket Lab will launch three back-to-back missions for global monitoring provider BlackSky, starting at the end of August and pushing through September.  Each mission will put two (2) of BlackSky’s high-resolution multi-spectral Gen-2 satellites into orbit, adding a total of 6 new satellites to the company’s Earth Observation constellation.

“Dedicated launch on Electron means a bespoke service for satellite operators who want control over their schedule and orbital parameters,” says Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. “Rapid launch with these three back-to-back missions enables BlackSky to fast-track their plans for a constellation that meets the hunger for real-time data produced by multiple images within 24 hours, rather than one image at the same time each day.” 

All three launches will be conducted from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 (LC-1) in New Zealand, with the “Love at First Insight” scheduled for late August, and the following two occurring rapidly thereafter.  BlackSky currently has seven satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO), with the next three launches nearly doubling the total number of satellites the company has available.

“We’ve been partnering strongly with Rocket Lab over the past several months to gain high confidence in a launch campaign that will increase the capacity of our space network,” said Brian E. O’Toole, CEO of BlackSky. “This cadence of rapid launches demonstrates the accelerated pace at which we are able to expand our constellation and reinforces our commitment to delivering real-time data and intelligence.” 

This will be the fastest sequence of Rocket Lab Electron launches conducted to date, with the company providing it can launch an average of one launch per month. Rocket Lab would like to boost launch rates to twice per month and is currently working on recovering the Electron first stage for reflight to increase its current pace of launches.

Both BlackSky and Rocket Lab are in the process of going public via SPAC, so this week’s announcement comes at an opportune time for both companies.  BlackSky combines high-resolution imagery generated by its constellation of satellites with AI software for providing analytics and insights to customers, including transportation, infrastructure, land use, defense, supply change management, and humanitarian aid.

BlackSky’s launch surge is understandable given the level of competition in the EO world, with established provider Planet Labs and newcomer Satellogic both also conducting SPACs to raise funds for accelerated expansion.  More funding is necessary for companies to complete their EO constellations and expand imaging usage into new markets.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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