Rocket Lab Poised to Start New Era of Launches from NASA's Facility on Wallops Island

The Rocket Lab mission, called "Virginia is for Launch Lovers," is set for launch on December 18 and should be visible along portions of the eastern U.S. coast.

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The Electron rocket on Launch Complex 2 on Wallops Island.
The Electron rocket on Launch Complex 2 on Wallops Island.
Photo: NASA

Private space company Rocket Lab is gearing up for its first liftoff from U.S. soil, launching its Electron rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The mission is playfully named “Virginia is for Launch Lovers,” and is scheduled to take off on Sunday, December 18 between 6:00 and 8 p.m. ET. The Electron rocket will launch from Launch Complex 2 at Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, which is located within NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.

“For those along the East Coast, weather permitting, you may catch a glimpse of Electron’s flight,” according to a NASA Wallops tweet. “From a distance, Electron will appear like a bright, fast-moving star in the sky.”

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Weather permitting, the launch should be visible along a swath of the U.S. east coast.
Weather permitting, the launch should be visible along a swath of the U.S. east coast.
Graphic: NASA

Liftoff was originally scheduled to take place on December 16 but was pushed back two days to allow time for NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration to complete paperwork related to the launch, Rocket Lab wrote on Twitter.

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The Electron rocket is set to deploy three satellites for HawkEye 360, a leading radio frequency geospatial analytics provider, in addition to three other satellites. Rocket Lab is based in California, with a subsidiary in Auckland, New Zealand. The company has been flying its rockets from New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula since 2017. However, for its upcoming launch, Rocket Lab is switching it up.

Electron’s new launchpad on Wallops island was built to support its missions for government and commercial customers on U.S. soil, according to Rocket Lab. “Launch Complex 2 supplements Rocket Lab’s existing site, Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, from which 32 Electron missions have already launched,” the company wrote on its website.

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With the upcoming launch, NASA is hoping that more private space companies will come to Virginia for their launch needs. “NASA is helping foster a growing low-Earth space economy and continues Wallops’ 35-year history of support to the commercial launch industry,” the space agency wrote in a statement.

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“We see a very large number of jobs” coming from Electron and Neutron activities at Wallops, Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, said during a briefing on Wednesday, according to SpaceNews. “It’s on the order of hundreds. We’re looking to establish a pretty significant footprint here.”

More: Rocket Lab Seeks to Answer ‘Are We Alone?’ by Launching First Private Mission to Venus