On January 24 at 23:00 UTC (18:00 ET), Rocket Lab successfully launched the HawkEye 360 Cluster 6 satellites with the Electron Rocket. It was the first launch from the United States for the company, at Launch Complex 2, Virginia, MARS on Wallops Island. The mission, dubbed “Virginia Is For Launch Lovers“, carried the first 3 of the 15 satellites contracted with HawkEye 360.
The launch was originally scheduled for mid-December but was delayed due to bad weather and high winds. After being rescheduled for January 23, 2023, it was then delayed again by one day due to weather conditions:
Weather conditions have deteriorated at Wallops with rain and strong winds at LC-2, so we're now targeting Tuesday Jan 24th for our first Electron mission from Virginia.— Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) January 22, 2023
Launch window opens:
UTC | 23:00
ET | 18:00
PT | 15:00
NZDT | 12:00 Jan 25th
Electron successfully placed the 3 satellites into orbit, confirming the next mission to launch the remaining 12 satellites. Two further launches of 6 satellites each are planned between now and 2024.
Prior to this launch, HawkEye 360 had only launched its satellites with SpaceX on Falcon 9 rockets. The company will continue to use the launch provider that works best for them, so future clusters can be launched on a variety of rockets.
HawkEye’s newest Cluster 6 satellites
HawkEye 360‘s service is to identify, process, and geolocate a wide range of RF (radio frequency) signals. Cluster 6 is a trio of next-generation satellites that will soon join the growing constellation developed by HawkEye 360, to detect and monitor RF signals worldwide. The forthcoming satellites will be the first to be placed in an inclined orbit, improving coverage of mid-latitude regions of the globe.
This new addition improves the revisit rate to around once per hour globally. Increasing capacity and optimizing data collection in the 15-18 GHz range, will enable new and useful applications for customers, particularly in high-demand regions. Once in orbit, the satellites will fire their thrusters to position themselves at a specific point 550 km away at an inclination of 40.5 degrees.
Electron Launch Vehicle
Rocket Lab is a space technology company that designs and manufactures launch vehicles, such as the current Electron rocket and the future Neutron rocket (still in development). The Electron is designed to provide frequent and reliable access to space for small satellites.
It is a two-stage rocket that uses 9 engines called Rutherford, capable of delivering payloads up to 320 kg to an altitude of 500 km.
Electron has successfully launched multiple times and has a strong track record of delivering payloads to orbit for government, research, and commercial customers. The company’s mission is to make space accessible to more organizations by providing a cost-effective and frequent launch solution.