"Look Ma, No Hands" Electron Launch (Source: Sam Toms/Rocket Lab)

Rocket Lab launches sats for BlackSky, UnseenLabs, USAF

launch took place at around 8:12 AM ET (12:12 PM UTC) on August19  from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 (LC-1) in New Zealand.  Satellites put into orbit included the first UnseenLabs maritime surveillance spacecraft, BlackSky’s fourth imaging satellite, and two United States Air Force technology demonstrators.

The launch was Rocket Lab’s fourth for the year and continues the company’s move to a monthly launch schedule as well as a 100 percent mission success record for customers.  Satellites were deployed into a 540 kilometer orbit at a 45 degree inclination.  To date, Rocket Lab has put 39 satellites into orbit.

Also onboard the launch vehicle was instrumentation to collect data for Rocket Lab’s plans to recover and re-use the Electron first stage at a future date.

BlackSky, a division of launch rideshare company Spaceflight, now has a total of four 1 meter imaging satellites in orbit. Last month, Rocket Lab put a BlackSky satellite into orbit as a part of an earlier Spaceflight rideshare. BlackSky plans to additional satellites into orbit by the end of the year with a planned constellation of 60 satellites when it is finished.  Four more satellites are scheduled to be launched onboard the first flight of India’s SSLV Small Stage Rocket Vehicle in October.

French-based UnseenLabs now has BRO-ONE, its first spectrum monitoring satellite for maritime and aerial traffic surveillance.  The 6U cubesat was built by GOMSpace and incorporated an UnseenLabs sensor payload.  UnseenLabs lays claim to the first French private cubesat operator in space.  Similar to Hawkeye 360, UnseenLabs uses a software defined radio to detect RF signals and the company says it can provide a ship location within 5 kilometers.

The United States Air Force Space Command put two Pearl White satellites in orbit via the mission. Each experimental satellite is 6U in size and designed to test propulsion, power, communications and drag capabilities for use on future spacecraft. Three Rocket Lab launches earlier this year have had US Department of Defense and/or USAF satellites onboard.


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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