Rocket Launch to be Visible from Washington County Area

HAGERSTOWN, MD News (1/11/2023) – An upcoming evening rocket launch scheduled for January 23rd will be visible in the Hagerstown area, giving residents a potentially spectacular light show in the southeastern sky.

On Monday, January 23rd, Rocket Lab, a New Zealand-based company, will be launching its Electron rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The launch window is open from 6-8pm ET, and weather permitting, people along the East Coast of the United States may have the opportunity to see the Electron rocket take off into the sky.

The Electron rocket is a small satellite launch vehicle that is designed to carry payloads of up to 225 kg (496 lbs) to low Earth orbit. The rocket uses a combination of liquid oxygen and kerosene as propellant, and has been previously launched from Rocket Lab’s private launch facility on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. The Electron rocket stands 59-feet tall, and will lift off from Launch Complex 2 at Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island.

The mission, named “Virginia is for Launch Lovers,” will deploy radio frequency monitoring satellites for HawkEye 360, a company that provides advanced geospatial radio frequency data analytics to support maritime, aviation and defense applications. This mission marks the first time Rocket Lab will launch its Electron rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility, and it also marks an important step for the company as it expands its reach to the United States market.

Rocket Lab is well-known for its use of 3D-printed engines and for its ability to manufacture and launch rockets on short notice. The company aims to make space more accessible to small payloads and frequency launches. The Electron rocket is able to fill a gap for small payloads, and in this mission it will be deploying a cluster of satellites as small as a shoebox which will be used for RF (radio frequency) monitoring, adding value to the market.

Wallops Flight Facility, operated by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, is a premier launch range and flight research center. It’s launch ranges are used primarily for sounding rocket and scientific balloon launches, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) launch pad, used for orbital launches of small spacecraft. The facility also includes a runway for aircraft operations and a range control center for mission tracking and range safety. The collaboration between Rocket Lab and Wallops Flight Facility is significant as it opens the door for future launches and opportunities for both organizations.

The upcoming launch of the Electron rocket from Wallops Flight Facility is an exciting event for space enthusiasts and those interested in the advancement of small satellite technology. The mission, “Virginia is for Launch Lovers,” will demonstrate the capabilities of the Electron rocket and the potential for small payload launches from the Wallops Flight Facility. This launch is not only a major milestone for Rocket Lab, but also for the Wallops Flight Facility as it opens up new opportunities for the facility in the small payload launch market.

The mission to deploy RF monitoring satellites for HawkEye 360 and marks the first time for Rocket Lab using Wallops as a launchpad. The Electron, with its 3D printed engines, is well suited for small payloads and offers a gap in the market. Both organizations are looking to establish a strong presence in the small satellite industry and this mission is a step towards achieving that goal.

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