Rocket Lab has announced the completion of its second orbital launch pad at Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand – the company’s third dedicated pad for its Electron rocket – and confirmed the new pad’s first mission will be a dedicated commercial launch scheduled to lift-off within a week’s time.
Pad B is based within Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, the world’s first private orbital launch site, located in Mahia, New Zealand. The new pad is Rocket Lab’s third for the company’s Electron launch vehicle and joins the existing Pad A at Launch Complex 1 and a third launch pad at Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2 in Virginia, USA. With two operational pads within the same launch complex, Rocket Lab doubles the launch capacity of its Electron launch vehicle.
Launch Complex 1 Pad B will support the upcoming launch of a dedicated Electron mission for Japanese Earth-imaging company Synspective. Lift-off is currently scheduled for no earlier than February 28 UTC / March 1 NZT.
With two launch pads and private range assets at Launch Complex 1, concurrent launch campaigns are now possible from the site. Operating two pads also eliminates pad recycle time, the company says, ensuring a launch pad is always available for a rapid-response mission. Launching from a private launch complex, Rocket Lab is also able to avoid the costs typically associated with shared launch sites, resulting in a cost-effective launch service for satellite operators.
“A reliable launch vehicle is only one part of the puzzle to unlocking space access - operating multiple launch sites so we can launch when and where our customers need to is another crucial factor," Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck, said. "We are proud to be delivering responsive space access for our customers, making back-to-back missions possible within hours or days, not weeks or months.
“Even with just one pad at Launch Complex 1, Electron quickly became the second most-frequently launched US rocket every year. Now, with two pads at Launch Complex 1 and a third in Virginia, imagine what three pads across two continents can do for schedule control, flexibility, and rapid response for satellite operators globally.”
More than 50 local construction workers and contractors were involved in the development of Launch Complex 1 Pad B, which includes a 66-ton launch platform and 7.6-ton strongback customised to the Electron launch vehicle.
“With Pad B we’ve kept things efficient. Its systems and layout replicates Pad A and shares much of Pad A’s infrastructure including the Electron vehicle integration hangar, runway to the pad, and our own range control facility," Rocket Lab’s Vice President – Launch, Shaun D’Mello, said. "With that we’ve been able to double our operational capacity - all on a concrete area smaller than the average tennis court.
"I’m hugely proud of what the team has achieved: building and bringing a second pad online, all while continuing to service and operate Pad A for our Electron launches to date, and in the middle of a global pandemic no less.”