Rocket Lab’s 30th Electron rocket sent a commercial radar satellite soaring to Earth orbit Thursday (Sept. 15).
The Electron booster lifted off from Rocket Lab’s New Zealand site on the North Island’s Mahia Peninsula on Thursday at 4:38 p.m. EDT (2038 GMT, or 8:38 a.m. local time on Friday, Sept. 16).
The livestreamed launch of the Strix-1 satellite on behalf of Synspective showed the rocket flying into the blue sky, with no technical issues reported during the launch. Strix-1 was deployed into its designated orbit, 350 miles (563 kilometers) above Earth, about 53 minutes after liftoff as planned, Rocket Lab said in an update via Twitter (opens in new tab).
Thursday’s mission was called “The Owl Spreads Its Wings,” a nod to the Strix-1 payload. (Strix is a diverse and widespread genus of owls.)
“Strix-1 is Synspective’s first commercial satellite for its synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite constellation to deliver imagery that can detect millimeter-level changes to the Earth’s surface from space, independent of weather conditions on Earth and at any time of the day or night,” Rocket Lab officials wrote in a mission description (opens in new tab).
Rocket Lab officials framed this launch as a milestone mission: It was Rocket Lab’s 30th Electron launch, bringing its 150th satellite into space and flying its 300th Rutherford engine.
Rocket Lab plans to make the first stage of Electron fully reusable, and has successfully fired up a booster recovered (and inadvertently dunked in the ocean) with a helicopter on May 2, during a mission called “There and Back Again.”
The company did not attempt a recovery on Thursday’s launch, however, and Electron’s first stage fell naturally into the drink after engine cutoff.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 5:50 p.m. EDT on Sept. 15 with news of successful satellite deploy.