Following Rocket Labs’ successful launch of the National Reconnaissance Office’s “Birds of a Feather” mission from New Zealand Jan. 31, the agency is partnering with the company again for its second launch of 2020 on March 27.
The launch was secured using the agency’s new Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket contract vehicle, an acquisition tool adopted in 2018 to leverage commercial small satellite launch capabilities. The NRO’s Jan. 31 launch with Rocket Labs was the first to use the new acquisition method.
“Under this approach, RASR allows the NRO to have a path to greater NRO launch resiliency and responsiveness. By leveraging commercial space launch capabilities where possible, the NRO can put space capabilities on orbit in a cost-effective manner,” the agency stated on Twitter March 9.
Under the contract, Rocket Labs will launch three NRO payloads aboard one of its Electron rockets. The rocket will also carry several small satellites for NASA and the University of New South Wales.
The NRO has not provided details on its payloads or their mission.
“We’re excited to be partnering with Rocket Lab on another mission under our RASR contract,” Col. Chad Davis, director of the NRO’s Office of Space Launch, said in a statement. “This latest mission is a great example of the collaborative nature of the space community and our goal as space partners to procure rideshare missions that not only meet our mission needs but provide opportunities for those working with smallsats to gain easy access to space.”
The 14-day launch window for the mission, named “Don’t Stop Me Now,” opens March 27, with the company utilizing one of its New Zealand launch complexes. This will be the company’s 12 launch with the Electron rocket since the May 2017.
Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.