Rocket Lab’s debut launch from American soil will have to wait at least another day after high winds thwarted an attempted liftoff Sunday evening (Dec. 18).
The Long Beach, California-based company hoped to launch its first U.S. flight of an Electron booster from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Wallops Island Sunday night, but unacceptable upper-level wind speeds forced a delay. The next launch opportunity is on Monday (Dec. 19) at 6 p.m. EST (2300 GMT). You can watch the launch live online, beginning about 40 minutes before liftoff.
“Those upper-level winds got the better of us today and we will be standing down from today’s launch attempt,” Rocket Lab spokesperson Murielle Baker said during live launch commentary.
Related: Rocket Lab’s 1st US launch may be visible along East Coast on Dec. 18
The upcoming Electron rocket mission, called “Virginia Is For Launch Lovers,” is carrying three radio frequency surveillance satellites for the company HawkEye 360, which is based in Virginia and developing a constellation of satellites to detect and monitor radio frequencies globally. The satellites on this mission, known as Cluster 6, are the first of 15 HawkEye 360 satellites Rocket Lab will launch over three missions by 2024.
“These missions will grow HawkEye 360’s constellation of radio frequency monitoring satellites, enabling the company to better deliver precise mapping of radio frequency emissions anywhere in the world,” Rocket Lab wrote in a mission description (opens in new tab).
Rocket Lab’s current launch window for Virginia Is For Launch Lovers runs through Dec. 20, after which the company will have to work with the Wallops Flight Facility and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport that oversees commercial launches from the site for any additional opportunities.
The company’s pad at Wallops is known as Launch Complex 2 and marks its first launch site in the Northern Hemisphere. Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 hosts two pads on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula.
By locating its third launch pad in the United States, Rocket Lab seeks to increase its flexibility and capabilities for U.S. government and military customers. The company hopes to eventually launch a mission every month from the Virginia launch site. Rocket Lab is also developing a new, larger rocket called Neutron for launches out of Wallops.
Rocket Lab originally hoped to launch its first flight from Wallops in 2020. Its U.S. flights were delayed two years to await NASA’s development of a new autonomous flight termination software, which required additional time to correct errors and complete tests. The NASA safety software is required for Electron flights from Wallops, with Rocket Lab adapting it into its own Pegasus system for launches.