On December 16, 2018, the Electron rocket was launched from the launch complex of the Rocket Lab company in New Zealand. The next launch is scheduled for the end of February to test the DARPA satellite (Advanced Research Projects Administration)
Space company Rocket Lab plans to launch an experimental DARPA satellite (Advanced Research Projects Management) R3D2 in February. This will be the first of dozens of scheduled starts in 2019. On January 22, the company announced that a small satellite would travel on the Electron rocket from the launch pad in New Zealand. Start is scheduled for the end of February.
The payload is the company's developed R3D2 satellite (Deployment Demonstration with Radio Frequency Risk Reduction) from DARPA. With its help, they intend to test the technology for deployable antennas. Stepping into orbit, R3D2 will deploy a membrane that expands to a diameter of 2.25 m to prove the ability of small satellites to carry the large deployable antennas needed for broadband communications.
A 150-pound satellite will be the only payload at launch. The main contractor for the R3D2 with the antenna is Northrop Grumman. The US Department of Defense is especially keenly interested in developing small satellites. A future launch may face a problem due to the temporary closure of the government, as it is necessary to obtain a new license to take off. This will be one of 12 launches planned by Rocket Lab this year. The second start should take place 4-5 weeks after the first. By the end of 2019, the company plans to send Electron rockets at a rate of one in two weeks.
This year they also plan to open a second launch point at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Space Center in Virginia. The site is under active construction, although the closure of the government affected the lack of support.
Rocket Lab is considered to be one of the leading companies of the new generation, producing small launch vehicles. However, she is not alone. Companies like Vector and Virgin Orbit are planning to launch the first orbital launches in 2019.
An antenna for a R3D2 spacecraft in a state of deployment during testing
On January 8, the company announced that it had hired Lars Hoffman (previously worked at SpaceX) as the new senior vice president for global launch services. He will be responsible for sales, business development and customer service. Rocket Lab does everything to be as flexible as possible for its customers.