Rocket Lab launches two more satellites for BlackSky

Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle lifts from the launch pad in New Zealand. (Rocket Lab via YouTube)

BlackSky’s Earth-observing constellation has grown thanks to two satellites, with Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle and logistical assistance from Spaceflight Inc. based in Seattle.

Rocket Lab’s previous BlackSky launch ended in failure back in May, but the launch team found the problem is Computer glitch has been fixed. This week’s mission, nicknamed “Love at First Sight,” went much more smoothly. This is the 22nd Rocket Lab launch and the fifth since the start of the year.

The two-stage rocket lifted off from Missile Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 2:38 p.m. local time on November 18 (5:48 p.m. PT November 17), deploying to BlackSky’s eighth and ninth satellites about an hour later.

“The perfect team flight,” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck tweeted.

“Another great launch in the books,” said Spaceflight Inc., the company that handles mission management and integration services for BlackSky’s satellites, said in a tweet.

After de-staged, Electron’s first-stage booster dived with the help of a parachute as a helicopter watched it fall and conducted communications tests in the recovery area. “Best seat in the house,” Beck wrote in a tweet includes a view from the helicopter.

The exercise is part of Rocket Lab’s effort to develop a system for recovering and reusing its boosters. Becky said in a news release after the launch.

BlackSky is based in Virginia become a publicly traded company in September, under the code symbol BKSY. Its Gen-2 satellites were built in Tukwila, Wash., by LeoStella, a joint venture involving BlackSky (formerly known as Spaceflight Industries) and Thales Alenia Space.

BlackSky is aiming to fill a constellation of 30 satellites by 2025 to provide regularly updated multi-faceted imagery to its AI-powered software platform for geospatial intelligence, or GEOINT.

“With this launch, $BKSY still plans to grow its constellation by two to four satellites by the end of 2021,” BlackSky tweeted. “The future of #GEOINT in real time looks brighter than ever!”

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