One week after opening its first pad and launch facility in the United States, Rocket Lab has started construction of a third launch pad at its Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, marking its continued expansion to increase launch frequency and flight readiness for the Electron rocket.
“Responsive access to space is about more than the rocket – it also requires responsive launch pads,” says Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. “With the opening of Launch Complex 2 in the U.S. and now the addition of Pad B at Launch Complex 1, Rocket Lab operates three individual launch pads to provide unmatched launch frequency and responsiveness for small satellites.”
Beck had suggested that construction of a second pad would be Rocket Lab’s next step in an impromptu interview at the opening of the LC-2 complex last week, Ground-breaking for the new pad started in December. Dubbed Launch Complex 1 Pad B, the new pad is expected to be completed in late 2020 according to the Rocket Lab press release. Launch Complex 1 (LC-1), opened in 2016, started with a single pad and vehicle hanger and now has grown to include range control operations and vehicle integration facilities equipped to process two Electron vehicles simultaneously.
LC-1 is licensed to launch up to 120 missions per year. Adding a new pad will enable Rocket Lab to more quickly launch rockets by eliminating pad recycling time, enabling launches “just days apart,” says the company. It will also enable Rocket Lab to continue flight operations when extended maintenance is needed on a pad. As part of the expansion, Rocket Lab expects to add 15 more jobs to the New Zealand complex.
Rocket Lab’s steady infrastructure expansion and recent announcement it had successfully managed to bring back an Electron first stage intact through re-entry on its tenth successful launch last month is likely to solidify its position as a small launch provider while others continue to try and get hardware into orbit. Vector officially filed for bankruptcy last week, while Virgin Orbit has yet to announce a date on the first flight of its’ air-launched LauncherOne rocket (Likely 1Q2020). First launch for the larger Firefly Alpha rocket also has slipped into the first quarter of 2020.