Rocket Lab Readies Mission for KAIST & NASA Satellite Deployment to Dual Orbits

Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB), a prominent figure in the realm of launch services and space systems, has disclosed the launch window for its upcoming Electron mission.

Dubbed the ‘Beginning Of The Swarm’ mission, it is slated to take off from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand. The launch window spans 14 days, commencing on April 24th. Electron will carry two satellites for distinct customers: NEONSAT-1, an Earth observation satellite for the Satellite Technology Research Center (SaTReC) at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), and NASA’s Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3).

The primary payload, NEONSAT-1, serves as an Earth observation satellite equipped with a high-resolution optical camera, aimed at monitoring natural disasters across the Korean Peninsula through the integration of artificial intelligence with its imagery. NEONSAT-1 marks the pioneer satellite developed within the NEONSAT program by SaTReC and KAIST, a testament to Korea’s technological prowess. The NEONSAT constellation is anticipated to expand with additional satellites scheduled for launch in 2026 and 2027. The initiative is a collaborative effort involving various Korean academic, industry, and research institutions, supported financially by the Koren government’s Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT).

On the other hand, NASA’s ACS3 represents a technology demonstration endeavoring to explore new materials and deployable structures for solar sail propulsion systems. The mission aims to validate the deployment of composite booms unfurling a solar sail measuring approximately 30 feet per side. The data gathered during this demonstration will pave the path for future missions involving larger-scale composite solar sail systems, addressing diverse objectives such as space weather monitoring, asteroid reconnaissance, and solar observation. NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, spearheaded the design and construction of ACS3, with funding and management facilitated by the Small Spacecraft Technology program at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.

Crucial to the success of this mission is Electron’s Kick Stage, capable of executing multiple engine burns in space and deploying satellites into bespoke orbits. The Kick Stage will orchestrate a sequence of engine ignitions to maneuver NEONSAT-1 into its designated 520km circular Earth orbit, followed by an apogee raise to 1,000km for ACS3. Subsequently, it will facilitate the circularization of ACS3’s orbit before executing a deorbit burn to ensure the Kick Stage’s safe re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, thereby contributing to sustainable space practices.

‘Beginning Of The Swarm’ marks Rocket Lab’s fifth mission in 2024 and the 47th Electron launch overall, underscoring the company’s steadfast commitment to advancing space exploration.

Key Details of the ‘Beginning Of The Swarm’ mission:

  • Launch window: Opens no-earlier-than April 24, 2024.
  • Customers: The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and NASA.
  • Satellites: NEONSAT-1 for SaTReC/KAIST and the Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3) for NASA.
  • Target orbits: NEONSAT-1 to 520km circular Earth orbit, ACS3 to 1,000km circular Earth orbit.

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