The highly responsive mission aims to demonstrate new orbital debris inspection technologies for space sustainability
LONG BEACH, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a global leader in launch services and space systems, today announced it has set the launch window for Astroscale’s orbital debris inspection demonstration mission.
The ‘On Closer Inspection’ mission is scheduled to launch during a 14-day window that opens on February 19th NZDT. The mission will lift-off from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand and will deploy the Active Debris Removal by Astroscale-Japan (ADRAS-J) satellite for Astroscale Japan Inc. The mission is the first phase of an orbital debris removal program, and during this phase ADRAS-J is designed to test technologies and operations for approaching and monitoring debris objects, also known as space junk, and delivering data that will assist in removing it, to ensure the sustainable use of space for future generations.
After launching on Electron, the 150-kilogram ADRAS-J satellite will approach an aged, derelict rocket stage in orbit to observe it closely, understand how it behaves and determine potential methods for its assisted deorbiting in future. The rocket stage it will be observing is the Japanese H-2A upper stage left in low Earth orbit after the launch of the GOSAT Earth observation satellite in 2009. ADRAS-J will fly around the stage, 11 meters long and four meters in diameter, inspecting it with cameras. After deployment from Electron, Astroscale’s full mission will take between three and six months to complete.
To enable the rendezvous with a non-cooperative space object requires a dedicated launch, highly responsive mission planning and extremely tight margins on orbital parameters. Rocket Lab only received the final perigee, apogee, and inclination from Astroscale 20 days before launch. Only then could argument of perigee targets for different days within the 14-day window be selected, essentially determining the timing of Electron Kick Stage burns to facilitate the unique elliptical orbit required depending on the launch date. The mission also demands highly accurate orbital insertion with tighter margins than required on most standard missions. In addition, the exact T-0 will only be defined the day prior to launch and the required LTAN accuracy only allows for +/- 15 seconds.
“Electron is really the only vehicle capable of delivering such a complex mission on an expedited timeline,” said Rocket Lab Founder and CEO Peter Beck. “With a dedicated launch on Electron the Astroscale team have a high degree of control over launch time and deployment parameters, and the Kick Stage delivers critical manoeuvrability for precise orbital deployment. We’re immensely proud to be working with the Astroscale team in support of a pivotal mission that could have real, positive benefits for managing space sustainability for future generations.”
“We are proud to join forces with Rocket Lab to launch the world’s first attempt to safely approach a piece of large debris,” said Astroscale Founder & CEO, Nobu Okada. “ADRAS-J is a testament to our commitment to technological innovation and to fostering the growth of the on-orbit servicing sector. This mission holds immense significance, not just for the future of space sustainability, but for pioneering advancements in Rendezvous and Proximity Operations, which are essential technologies to deliver any on-orbit servicing such as debris removal.”
‘On Closer Inspection’ will be Rocket Lab’s 2nd launch in 2024 and the 44th Electron mission overall.
+ About Rocket Lab
Founded in 2006, Rocket Lab is an end-to-end space company with an established track record of mission success. We deliver reliable launch services, satellite manufacture, spacecraft components, and on-orbit management solutions that make it faster, easier, and more affordable to access space. Headquartered in Long Beach, California, Rocket Lab designs and manufactures the Electron small orbital launch vehicle, the Photon satellite platform, and the Company is developing the large Neutron launch vehicle for constellation deployment. Since its first orbital launch in January 2018, Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle has become the second most frequently launched U.S. rocket annually and has delivered 176 satellites to orbit for private and public sector organizations, enabling operations in national security, scientific research, space debris mitigation, Earth observation, climate monitoring, and communications. Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft platform has been selected to support NASA missions to the Moon and Mars, as well as the first private commercial mission to Venus. Rocket Lab has three launch pads at two launch sites, including two launch pads at a private orbital launch site located in New Zealand and a third launch pad in Virginia. To learn more, visit www.rocketlabusa.com.
+ About Astroscale
Founded in 2013, Astroscale is developing innovative and scalable solutions across the spectrum of on-orbit servicing missions, including life extension, in-situ space situational awareness, end-of-life services, and active debris removal, to create sustainable space systems and mitigate the growing and hazardous buildup of debris in space. Astroscale is also defining business cases and working with government and commercial stakeholders to develop norms, regulations, and incentives for the responsible use of space.
Headquartered in Japan, Astroscale has an international presence with subsidiaries in the United Kingdom, the United States, Israel, and Singapore. Astroscale is a rapidly expanding venture company, working to advance safe and sustainable growth in space and solve a growing environmental concern. Find out more about Astroscale at www.astroscale.com.
+ Forward Looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. We intend such forward-looking statements to be covered by the safe harbor provisions for forward looking statements contained in Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”) and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). All statements contained in this press release other than statements of historical fact, including, without limitation, statements regarding our launch and space systems operations, launch schedule and window, safe and repeatable access to space, Neutron development, operational expansion and business strategy are forward-looking statements. The words “believe,” “may,” “will,” “estimate,” “potential,” “continue,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “expect,” “strategy,” “future,” “could,” “would,” “project,” “plan,” “target,” and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements, though not all forward-looking statements use these words or expressions. These statements are neither promises nor guarantees, but involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other important factors that may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements, including but not limited to the factors, risks and uncertainties included in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022, as such factors may be updated from time to time in our other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), accessible on the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov and the Investor Relations section of our website at www.rocketlabusa.com, which could cause our actual results to differ materially from those indicated by the forward-looking statements made in this press release. Any such forward-looking statements represent management’s estimates as of the date of this press release. While we may elect to update such forward-looking statements at some point in the future, we disclaim any obligation to do so, even if subsequent events cause our views to change.
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