Rocket Lab plans to launch four private satellites and recover the returning booster early Sunday morning (Jan. 28), and you can watch the action live.
The company’s Electron rocket is scheduled to lift off from New Zealand on Sunday during a 45-minute window that opens at 1:15 a.m. EST (0615 GMT; 7:15 p.m. local New Zealand time).
You can watch live here on Space.com, courtesy of Rocket Lab, or directly via the companny’s website. Coverage will begin 30 minutes before the launch window opens.
Related: Facts and information about Rocket Lab
Sunday’s mission, which Rocket Lab calls “Four of a Kind,” will send four space situational awareness (SSA) satellites to low Earth orbit for Montreal company NorthStar Earth & Space.
The four spacecraft, which were built and will be operated by the San Francisco-based Spire Global, “will be the first to simultaneously monitor all near-Earth orbits from space, delivering a radically enhanced level of SSA services to the global satellite community, with timely and precise information for space object detection, tracking, orbit determination, collision avoidance, navigation and proximity alerts,” Rocket Lab wrote in a mission description.
If all goes according to plan on Sunday, the four satellites will be deployed into a circular orbit 330 miles (530 kilometers) above Earth about 77 minutes after liftoff. There will also be action in the downward direction, however.
Rocket Lab plans to bring the first stage of the 59-foot-tall (18 meters) Electron back to Earth under parachutes for a soft Pacific Ocean splashdown. The company will then recover the booster and haul it back to shore for inspection and analysis.
Such work, which Rocket Lab has done for a handful of previous missions, will aid the company’s effort to make the Electron’s first stage reusable. Rocket Lab has already made strides toward this end; last August, for example, an Electron launched successfully with one preflown Rutherford engine. (Electron’s first stage is powered by nine Rutherfords.)
— US military taps Rocket Lab to launch hypersonic test vehicle in 2025
— Can a private space mission pierce Venus’s clouds?
— Rocket Lab targets late 2024 for private Venus mission launch
“Four of a Kind” will be Rocket Lab’s first launch of 2024 and its 43rd Electron mission overall.
The most recent Electron launch, which occurred last month, was a return-to-flight mission following a failure that occurred in September. The December mission, called “The Moon God Awakens,” was a success.