Rocket Lab Lands Contract to Launch Satellites for HawkEye 360

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Rocket Lab Lands Contract to Launch Satellites for HawkEye 360
Courtesy of Rocket Lab

Long Beach-based reusable rocket startup Rocket Lab has inked a contract with satellite company HawkEye 360 to launch three payloads into space beginning as soon as December.

Using its Electron rocket, Rocket Lab will send 15 of Virginia-based HawkEye 360’s radio frequency monitoring satellites into low Earth orbit across three separate missions starting "no earlier than December 2022," the company said Tuesday. Rocket Lab did not disclose financial details of its contract with HawkEye 360.


The first launch will be a "rideshare mission," according to Rocket Lab, that will send three HawkEye 360 satellites into space along with cargo from other, as-yet-undisclosed customers. Assuming the first launch is successful, Rocket Lab will launch two more dedicated Electron rockets through 2024, each carrying six HawkEye 360 satellites.

The first mission will launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va.—home to Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 2, which opened in late 2019. Nearby, Rocket Lab broke ground last week on a new 250,000-square-foot rocket production facility to build its Neutron launcher, which will be its largest rocket to date and, it hopes, a competitor to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. The company is developing the Neutron facility with the help of $45 million in funding from the state of Virginia.

In a statement, Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said that he is looking forward to the first HawkEye 360 flight, which will be Rocket Lab's inaugural launch from Wallops Island. Founded in 2006, the startup also operates its Launch Complex 1 in Beck's native New Zealand.

“Operating multiple Electron pads across both hemispheres opens up incredible flexibility for our customers and delivers assured access to space, something we know is becoming increasingly critical as launch availability wanes worldwide,” Beck said.

One reason why Rocket Lab's time frame for the HawkEye 360 launches remains vague—and why the company has yet to launch from Wallops Island—is because it’s still waiting on NASA to grant it access to the space agency’s Autonomous Flight Termination Unit software, which is critical for takeoff. Rocket Lab said Tuesday that it is "encouraged by NASA’s recent progress in certifying" the software at Wallops Island.

“My confidence level is high, but it was high last year, too,” Beck told SpaceNews earlier this year. “I would be extraordinarily disappointed if NASA doesn’t meet their deliveries to enable us to launch this year.”

Rocket Lab is also gearing up for an ambitious test of its ability to recover and reuse its Electron rocket boosters after launch. The company will send 34 small satellites from several commercial operators into space, and then use a helicopter to attempt to catch the falling booster. The aptly-named (and "Hobbit"-themed) There and Back Again mission is expected to launch April 22,

but could take place several days later if weather conditions aren’t optimal.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.

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