Rocket Lab has launched its Electron rocket carrying payload from the National Reconnaissance Office as part of the “Birds of a Feather” mission, which serves as the rocket's first for 2020 and 11th to date.
The company said Friday that Electron lifted off from the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand at 2:56 a.m. UTC and facilitated a guided reentry for the launch vehicle’s first stage.
The first stage includes S-band telemetry and flight systems as well as onboard navigation and guidance hardware.
Rocket Lab secured the launch services agreement with NRO through the Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket contract vehicle.
Peter Beck, founder and CEO of Rocket Lab, said the recent mission demonstrates the company’s commitment to “providing responsive, dedicated access to space for government small satellites.”
The firm intends to facilitate monthly launches for Electron this year and conduct a mission from the company’s first U.S.-based launch complex that was opened last December in Virginia. Other projects for 2020 include the construction of a third launch pad as well as a new facility in Long Beach, Calif.
The Photon satellite that will operate in low-Earth orbit is also slated to launch this year.