Takin’ Off

Launching private space missions from Wallops Island. 

Photo by Trevor Mahlmann / courtesy of Rocket Lab

The private spaceflight company Rocket Lab will soon launch missions from a new platform at Wallops Flight Facility, near Chincoteague Island. More than 1,400 cubic yards (37,800 cubic feet) of concrete were poured to create the 66-ton launch platform, which was completed last September. It’s the Auckland, New Zealand-based company’s first U.S. launch location (the first is in New Zealand), and was picked for its low orbital inclination launch abilities, as well as greater range availability for orbital flights. “Accessing space should be simple, seamless, and tailored to our customers’ missions,” company founder Peter Beck says. “Launching from a second pad builds on Rocket Lab’s ability to offer the small satellite industry unmatched schedule and launch location flexibility.”

The company uses its Electron, a two-stage rocket that stands 57 feet tall and can haul payloads of up to 500 pounds to orbit. Rocket Lab charges $5 million per flight, but the cost is spread over the dozens of small satellites it packs into each vehicle.

The company plans to begin hosting Electron launches from Virginia soil sometime in 2020. RocketLabUSA.com


This article originally appeared in our February 2020 issue.

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