Rocket Lab targets first launch from US later this year

Rocket Lab will launch the Electron rocket for the first time from U.S. soil with a payload for HawkEye 360 in December.

After years of launching from New Zealand, commercial space company Rocket Lab is very close to its first U.S. launch.

The company announced that its first Electron rocket to launch from Launch Complex 2 within NASA's Wallops Flight Facility had arrived ahead of a planned December launch.

The inaugural launch from Virginia will carry radio frequency monitoring satellites for HawkEye 360 to orbit. Rocket Lab will launch 15 satellites across three missions for HawkEye 360 through 2024. 

"We are looking forward to seeing Electron take to Virginia skies for the first time very soon," Beck said in a statement. "Rocket Lab has been providing reliable and responsive access to orbit for more than four and a half years with Electron, and we’re excited to build on that strong heritage by unlocking a new path to orbit from right here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore."

Over the next few weeks, Rocket Lab teams in Virginia will integrate the satellite payload with Electron and perform a launch wet dress rehearsal. 

Previously, all of Rocket Lab's Electron rockets have launched from its two launchpads in New Zealand.  Most recently, the Electron rocket launched from New Zealand with the ARGOS-4 instrument that will collect data used by NOAA to track wildlife and climate data.

The launch marked Rocket Lab's eighth overall this year, a new record for the company.

Rocket Lab was founded in 2006 by New Zealander Peter Beck and completed its first launch in 2018. 

The company's headquarters and rocket manufacturing facility is in Long Beach, California. Rocket Lab is also building a manufacturing facility for its giant Neutron rocket at Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

FOX Weather was at the ground-breaking in April of the rocket factory on 28 acres that once hosted a chicken farm. 

The 250,000-square-foot facility will bring more than 250 jobs to the area, from high-level managers to technicians and launch operators.