Main Engine Cut Off

DARPA Launch Up Next for Rocket Lab

Jeff Foust for SpaceNews:

Rocket Lab announced Jan. 22 that it will launch a small satellite for DARPA on the company’s Electron rocket from its launch site in New Zealand. That launch will take place in February, likely late in the month, Rocket Lab Chief Executive Peter Beck said in an interview.

The payload is a satellite developed by DARPA called Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration (R3D2) that will test technologies for deployable antennas. Once in orbit, R3D2 will deploy a Kapton membrane that will expand to a diameter of 2.25 meters to demonstrate the ability to small satellites to carry large deployable antennas needed to support high-bandwidth communications.

Apparently launch responsiveness is a focus here, as the timeline from design to launch is approximately 18 months.

I’ll say this about Rocket Lab’s upcoming stretch of launches for 2019: they have a lot more United States Department of Defense launches then you’d expect. Should be a fun year.

Oh, and one more quote from Beck:

Beck is among those who expect to see a shakeout in the small launch industry in the near future. “I think it’s going to be an interesting time ahead for the hundred-plus small launch vehicles that are under development within the industry right now,” he said. “I think you’re going to see some fairly strong consolidation over the next 12 months.”

I said damn near the same thing in this week’s podcast—let’s see if it plays out that way.