After successfully launching 6 missions and over 20 payloads to orbit in 2019, Rocket Lab is preparing to conduct its first launch of 2020 using their Electron rocket. The mission will lift off from Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand, and will carry the classified NROL-151 payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The 14-day launch window is set to open on Friday at midnight UTC (13:00 NZDT).
The 11th Electron mission, christened with the nickname “Birds Of A Feather”, will be Rocket Lab’s first for the NRO, as well the first launch under the agency’s Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) program.
The program was created with the goal of diversifying the NRO’s selection of light-lift launch vehicles in order to provide more frequent launch opportunities for smaller satellites.
Due to the classified nature of the mission, very few details have been made public. The size, orbit, and purpose of the NROL-151 payload are unknown.
“Birds Of A Feather” has a 14-day launch window, which runs from Friday, January 31 to Friday, February 13. There are four-hour windows of opportunity on each day, from 00:00-04:00 UTC (13:00-17:00 NZDT).
In the days leading up to the flight, ...