Rocket lab successfully launched an experimental satellite for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on March 28th. Rocket lab which is a Small satellite launcher pulled off its first flight in New Zealand and send an experimental communications satellite into orbit. It marks the third commercial flight of Rocket Lab’s small Electron rocket, and the fifth flight overall for the fledgling company, which began launching rockets in 2017.
The payload is a satellite developed by DARPA called Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration (R3D2) which will test technologies for deployable antennas. Once they reach into the orbit R3D2 will deploy a Kapton membrane that will expand to a diameter of 2.25 meters to demonstrate. Although the ability of small satellites to carry out large deployable antennas to support high-bandwidth communications.
The satellite weighs 150 kilograms and once it launched it takes up all the mass and volume available on the rocket. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for R3D2, along with the antenna provided by MMA Design and the satellite bus by Blue Canyon Technologies.
In January, Rocket lab discussed its plans to launch R3D2. As per the company, it is the first of 12 the company expected to carry out in 2019 with an increasing cadence of missions as the year went on.
“Basically, our goal for 2019 is to continue to deliver that regular, reliable service to orbit, It’s really demonstrating true responsive access to space, which is something that’s been long required,” Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab.
Moreover, the mission was a month delayed because shipping the satellite to New Zealand and making final preparations for launch had been late. It is not clear why they have delayed the mission while the company said on its website that they were long ready to carry the launch. Currently, Rocket lab is building one electron a month, Beck said that they are ready for the next mission and doing some tests, however, the company has not revealed the date or payload for this next mission.