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Rocket Lab selects Wallops Flight Facility for US launch site

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Posted at 5:06 PM, Oct 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-18 17:06:54-04

Rocket Lab, a California-based company, has chosen Virginia Space and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport as the location for Launch Complex-2 (LC-2), Rocket Lab’s first launch facility located in the United States.

Already launching from their own facility on the Mahia peninsula of New Zealand, LC-2 helps Rocket Lab meet its rapidly growing launch manifest demand from both commercial and government customers. Construction will begin immediately for Launch Complex-2 at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) and a Launch Vehicle Integration and Assembly Facility, which will be located nearby in Wallops Research Park.

“The development of Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex-2 strengthens our existing position as the industry leader providing frequent and tailored access to orbit for small satellites,” said Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck. “Launching from U.S. soil adds an extra layer of flexibility for our government and commercial customers, offering an unmatched ability to rapidly deploy space-based assets with confidence and precision.”

Rocket Lab will launch its 57-foot-tall (17 meters) Electron rocket from LC-2, the dedicated launch site to be constructed at MARS. The Electron rocket can launch approximately 500 pounds (225 kilograms) of payload to orbit.

The rocket launch industry has shifted recently as commercial spaceflight has matured and satellites have gotten smaller and less expensive to manufacture. With the capabilities provided by the Electron, Rocket Lab is perfectly positioned to capitalize on the emerging market for smaller rockets that can launch rapidly and more frequently.

“Rocket Lab’s decision to locate this launch site and integration facility at Wallops Island reflects the Commonwealth’s strategic transportation planning efforts to create a world class, customer-oriented gateway to space,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “The MARS facility is an important part of our multimodal transportation system that serves as the platform to drive Virginia’s economy forward.”

Four spaceports were shortlisted to become Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2, including Cape Canaveral, Wallops Flight Facility, Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base. Wallops Flight Facility made the final cut thanks to high flight frequency available from the site, as well as rapid construction timelines that will see Rocket Lab target the first Electron launch from US soil Q3 2019.