Rocket lab has launched an experimental satellite successfully for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It was launched on March 28, 2019. Rocket Lab Electron rocket was seen lifted from its lunch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula on March 28 at 7.27pm.
The launch was initially scheduled for March 24 however because of a faulty video transmitter on the rocket the scheduled lift off was delayed. Limited launch windows and weather conditions were also responsible for the delay. The payload called R3D2 was developed by DARPA and will be testing technologies for antennas which can be deployed. Once R3D2 is placed in orbit, Kapton membrane will be used that can expand to 2.25metres diameter in order to demonstrate their ability to carry deployable antennas to support higher bandwidth communication for small satellites.
The only payload on the launch will be the 150-kilogram satellite which will take up all the volume and mass on the rocket. The major contractor of R3D2 is Northrop Grumman and the MMA Design is the antenna providers and the satellite us was provided by Blue Canyon Technologies. When the plans for launching R3D2 was announced by Rocket Lab in January, they said that the launch would be first of the twelve that will be carried out in 2019 and the following years will see more. Chief Executive of Rocket Lab, Peter Beck said in an interview that delivering regular and reliable service to orbit was their goal for 2019. But the mission suffered a one month delay mainly caused due to the delay in shipping the satellite to New Zealand and also the final launch preparations took more time.
One electron per month is built by the company currently. Prior to this launch Beck had said that the stage testing of the vehicle to be used for the next mission is already completed is on the way to its site. However neither the date of mission nor the payload details have been disclosed by Rocket Lab.