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Rocket Lab to Launch Most Diverse Mission Yet

The mission will deploy 30 satellites to unique orbits using the Electron launch vehicle’s Kick Stage space tug

The satellites will enable internet from space, test new methods of deorbiting space debris, and enable research into predicting earthquakes

The launch will also feature a 3D printed mass simulator for Valve’s Gabe Newell to raise funds for Starship Children’s Hospital

Long Beach, California. November 2, 2020 – Leading space systems company, Rocket Lab, has today announced its next Electron mission will feature a diverse range of payloads from the United States, France and New Zealand.

The mission, which will be Rocket Lab’s 16th Electron launch, will lift-off from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula during a 14-day launch window that opens on November 16 NZT / November 15 UTC.

Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle will loft 30 satellites to a sun-synchronous orbit at 500 km altitude for a range of customers, including TriSept, Unseenlabs, Swarm Technologies, Te Pūnaha Ātea - Auckland Space Institute, and Gabe Newell, co-founder of global gaming software company Valve. The satellites span a range of operations, from TriSept’s tech demonstration of new tether systems designed to accelerate spacecraft reentry and reduce orbital debris, through to the next generation of maritime surveillance satellites for Unseenlabs, as well as communications satellites for Swarm Technolgies. The mission will also deploy New Zealand’s first student-built satellite, the APSS-1 satellite for Te Pūnaha Ātea - Auckland Space Institute at The University of Auckland.

A mass simulator will also be fixed to this mission’s Kick Stage in the form of a 3D printed gnome created for Valve’s Gabe Newell by multi-award-winning design studio Weta Workshop, the creative studio behind Lord of the Rings, Avatar, and Mulan. The unique space component is additively manufactured into the shape of Half-Life gaming icon Gnome Chompski. The mission serves as an homage to the innovation and creativity of gamers worldwide, and also aims to test and qualify a novel 3D printing technique that could be employed for future spacecraft components.  

Despite launching together as a rideshare, each satellite will be deployed to a unique orbit thanks to Rocket Lab’s Kick Stage. Once the Electron launch vehicle’s second stage reaches orbit, the Kick Stage separates and takes over as a space tug to conduct the final leg of the journey, providing propulsion and pointing to deliver multiple satellites to precise, individual orbits.

Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s founder and CEO, says “Small satellite operators shouldn’t have to compromise on orbits when flying on a rideshare mission, and we’re excited to provide tailored access to space for 30 satellites on this mission. It’s why we created the Kick Stage to enable custom orbits on every mission, and eliminate the added complexity, time, and cost of having to develop your own spacecraft propulsion or using a third-party space tug.”