Northam marks opening of Rocket Lab Launch Pad
Gov. Ralph Northam announced today the activation of Rocket Lab’s first launch facility in the United States, located at Wallops Island.
Rocket Lab is a global leader in small satellite launch. It will launch low-weight, agile rockets into orbit starting next year.
The company began construction on the launch pad—known as Launch Complex-2—in February, together with the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (Virginia Space). The pad is located at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.
Rocket Lab currently launches from its facility on the Māhia peninsula of New Zealand. LC-2 will expand the company’s access to both commercial and government customers who wish to launch from United States soil in order to meet the growing demand for more rapid and more frequent deployment of space-based assets. The dedicated launch site will be capable of supporting monthly orbital launches and will increase Rocket Lab’s capacity to as many as 130 missions per year across the two sites. Recognizing the need for responsive, reliable access to space, the Commonwealth invested $5 million from its Transportation Partnership Opportunity Fund in the project.
“This great collaboration between Rocket Lab, Virginia Space, and the NASA Wallops Flight Facility has resulted in the completion of a new launch site at Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in record time,” Northam said. “Virginia is proud to be the home of Rocket Lab’s first facility in the United States—the advancements in aerospace happening right here in our Commonwealth will boost our economic competitiveness and ensure Virginia’s continued position as a leader in space flight.”
“We’re thrilled to be delivering a new launch capability to the nation from Virginia,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. “Frequent and reliable access to orbit is the new normal for small satellites thanks to Electron, and now we’re proud to extend that capability to satellites launching from U.S. soil. The ongoing support of NASA, Virginia Space and the Commonwealth has been integral in building LC-2 so quickly, ensuring the site is ready for launches in early 2020.”
LC-2 consists of a pad made from more than 1,400 cubic yards of concrete, a 66-ton launch platform, and a 44-foot, 7.6-ton “strongback,” which lifts the rocket into launch position. The site will be used to launch Rocket Lab’s 57-foot-tall Electron rocket capable of carrying up to 500 pounds of satellite payload to orbit. The Electron rocket allows Rocket Lab to offer customers both dedicated launch service as well as “rideshare” service—a commercially competitive arrangement that enables customers’ payloads to ride along as part of an existing mission.
“This customer-oriented gateway to space will advance our position within the aerospace industry,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “The activation of LC-2, testing, and preparations underway for the first Electron launch will showcase our strategic partnership with Rocket Lab, letting the world know that Virginia is open for business.”
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore has supported commercial ventures for the past several decades. Together with Virginia Space and commercial industry, the Wallops Complex is an exemplary model of a public-public-private partnership to advance the nation’s goals in space.
“Building this launch pad from scratch in less than a year is a phenomenal achievement,” said Director of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility Dave Pierce. “Wallops is a unique national asset, perfectly suited for enabling commercial partnerships and growing the nation’s rapid space launch capability for assured, responsive access to space. We are proud to have Rocket Lab as a partner and we’re looking forward to Electron’s first flight from Wallops in early 2020.”
An Integration and Control Facility located within the Wallops Research Park is also under construction. The facility will be able to accommodate the simultaneous integration of multiple Electron launch vehicles, will contain an operations control center connected to LC-2, and will include office and conference room space for the Rocket Lab team. This new facility complements the LC-2 launch pad by creating dedicated vehicle processing capability and dedicated launch and mission center space for personnel who will support the Electron missions.
“The opening of Launch Complex-2 is a significant milestone and a remarkable achievement made possible by the strong partnership with Rocket Lab and NASA,” said Virginia Space CEO and Executive Director Dale Nash. “Almost immediately after Rocket Lab’s selection of MARS as its launch site, engineers, managers, and technicians worked tirelessly together across multiple time zones and two continents to make LC-2 a reality. Strong support from the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Air Force, and the skilled contractor team contributed greatly to this success, and we look forward to a busy manifest of Electron launches coming off LC-2.”
“Planning, designing, and building a new liquid fueled launch pad at this pace, including not only the major structural components, but also the complex pneumatic, hydraulic, cryogenic, electrical and controls systems, is a testament to the incredibly talented and dedicated Virginia Space and Rocket Lab teams,” said MARS Director Sean Mulligan. “From the start of LC-2 negotiations last summer, it was apparent that Rocket Lab’s forward-leaning and pragmatic approach fit well with our culture at the MARS Spaceport. We look forward to a long partnership of launching many Electrons from the Eastern Shore of Virginia.”
About Rocket Lab
Rocket Lab is the world’s leading dedicated small satellite launch provider. Founded in 2006, Rocket Lab provides end-to-end mission services, including complete satellite build and launch solutions that provide rapid, frequent, and reliable access to space. Since its first orbital launch in January 2018, Rocket Lab has delivered 47 satellites to orbit on the Electron launch vehicle, enabling operations in space debris mitigation, Earth observation, ship and airplane tracking, and radio communications. Headquartered in Huntington Beach, California, Rocket Lab designs and manufactures the Electron launch vehicle and Photon satellite platform. Electron is a full carbon-composite launch vehicle tailored for small satellites. Photon is a complete spacecraft bus solution that can be tailored for a range of missions. Together Electron and Photon offer an all-inclusive spacecraft build and launch service for Rocket Lab customers. Rocket Lab operates launch sites in Māhia, New Zealand and Wallops Island, Virginia. For more information, visit rocketlabusa.com.
About Virginia Space
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Virginia Space owns and operates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), the MARS Payload Processing Facility, and the MARS Unmanned Systems Test Range. Co-located with the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, the mission of Virginia Space and MARS is to provide low-cost, safe, reliable, “schedule-friendly” access to space and secure facilities for testing of unmanned vehicles for integration into the National Air Space. Virginia continues to play a key role in national security and assured access to space, as one of only four states in the United States hosting a spaceport licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to launch spacecraft into orbit or on interplanetary trajectories. For more information, visit vaspace.org.