Rocket Lab has successfully launched a spy satellite in orbit for the United States National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket launched the satellite into space from Launch Complex-1 on Peninsula Bay, New Zealand, early Thursday ET.
The launch was originally scheduled for earlier in the week, but was called off due to winds so strong that it had to “walk at a lean,” according to Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck.
Calmer conditions eventually prevailed, paving the way for the Electron to lift the NRO’s secret payload into space. A video (below) shared by Rocket Lab shows the early stages of the flight.
— RocketLab (@RocketLab) August 4, 2022
Thursday’s NROL-199 mission, dubbed “Antipodean Adventure,” marked the second of two consecutive Rocket Lab flights for the NRO after the launch of NROL-162 on July 13.
According to Rocket Lab, the payload was deployed in partnership with the Australian Department of Defense for cooperative satellite activities.
Since it’s a spy satellite, no one involved in the mission is revealing much, though Rocket Lab said it will allow the NRO to provide “critical information to government agencies and decision makers monitoring international issues.”
Based in California but launching all 28 of its space missions to date from Beck’s home country of New Zealand, Rocket Lab is competing with SpaceX and Virgin Orbit as a provider of launch services.
Most of the missions Rocket Lab have involved small satellite deployments for a variety of private companies and government organizations, though with a new, more powerful rocket design in the works, it also has plans for larger satellite deployments, and is even considering manned flights.
One of his most notable missions in recent months involved the CAPSTONE satellite launch, which is playing a major role in NASA’s preparations for a new era of lunar exploration. The satellite will test a possible lunar orbit for the Gateway, a space station that is set to provide support for long-term manned missions to the moon.