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Rocket Lab launches DARPA’s R3D2 satellite

Rocket Lab launch
Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle rises from its New Zealand launch pad. (Rocket Lab via YouTube)

Rocket Lab executed its first launch of the year from New Zealand today, sending an experimental satellite into orbit for the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The company’s Electron launch vehicle lifted off from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula right on time, at 4:27 p.m. PT March 28 (12:27 p.m. local time March 29). Launch had been delayed for several days — first, due to concerns about a video transmission system, and then due to unacceptable weather conditions.

About 50 minutes after launch, the Electron’s kick stage successfully deployed DARPA’s Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration satellite, or R3D2, into a 264-mile-high orbit..

“Mission success! Great kick stage burn and final orbit. Perfect flight!” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said in a tweet.

The 330-pound satellite is designed to unfurl a 7-foot-wide antenna to demonstrate how large structures can be packed within small satellite-size packages.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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