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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