On August 23, Rocket Lab USA, a space company that provides launch service of orbital and suborbital rockets, has successfully delivered into low Earth orbit one satellite for Capella Space.
Shortly before the launch Rocket Lab announced that for the first time, Electron would launch using a preflown Rutherford engine. A big step for the company that aims to achieve the reusability of an entire first stage.
That's 400…uh…399 Rutherford engines launched to space!— Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) August 24, 2023
The preflown Rutherford engine performed flawlessly today – a major step toward Electron reusability. pic.twitter.com/0EhalaVDP1
The launch of the mission named ‘We Love the Nightlife’ took place from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. The launch was originally scheduled for July 30, but shortly after engine ignition the liftoff was aborted. A second attempt on August 6 was scrubbed and several weather-related delays have occurred.
The Electron rocket finally lifted off at 23:45 UTC (Aug. 24, 7:45 p.m. Local Time), after two and half minutes the second stage separated from the first that was recovered after a successful splashdown. At T+ 09:09 the Kickstage separated and 48 minutes later deployed the payload.
This is Rocket Lab’s third launch for Capella Space, an American space and technology company founded by Payam Banazadeh, a former engineer at NASA. Their current aim is to build and launch a group of seven “Whitney-class” satellites, in order to provide radar imagery with high resolution.
‘We Love the Nightlife’ mission deployed one of Capella’s third-next-generation SAR Earth-imaging satellites named Acadia.
These new satellites aim to increase the ground resolution of the images up to 31 cm compared to the current 50 cm of the second generation. In addition, laser communication will be made more efficient to guarantee faster downlink speeds. This can happen thanks to new Optical Communications Terminals on board called Condor MK3, supplied by the Mynaric company.
Moreover, radar bandwidth will be increased from 500 MHz to 700 MHz, along with a 40% increase in power.
Each of the upcoming four launches carried out by rocket lab, using electron launchers, will have the task of deploying an Acadia satellite at 640 km, in mid-inclination orbit, aiming to enlarge the current Capella SAR constellation. In such a manner, a more efficient and rapid revisit around the Earth will be provided.
“Capella’s Acadia satellite technology is the result of our team’s drive to push the limits. Our new Acadia class of satellites will deliver even higher resolution and quality which will equip our customers worldwide with the tools and information they need to take problem-solving to the next level.”
— Payam Banazadeh, CEO and founder of Capella Space
About Capella Space
Capella Space is a company that provides high-resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Earth observation imagery. Before this private company entered the market, SAR technology was in the hands of only the military and the most wealthy states.
Their aim is to be able to quickly request a tasking image, collect it from the constellation, and rapidly get it to the customer. Unlike traditional optical band images, SARs use radar in the microwave spectrum in order to recreate a picture of the observed lands. It is particularly performing even during the night, in the presence of clouds, and also through precipitation.
A fundamental function of the SAR satellites is called Change Detection which makes it possible to determine and identify the damages that have occurred following an extreme event in a territory. For example, following a natural disaster or a bombing of a city. It is based on processing several images acquired in the same geographical area but in different time slots.
These kinds of images are fundamental to the study of climate change and related events. SAR data have been also crucial in the war in Ukraine, especially in the days before the outbreak of the conflict. The images of these satellites have indeed effectively revealed the movement of Russian troops, despite the dense clouds and continuous showers.