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Rocket Lab, the private aerospace company behind the Electron launch vehicle, has received a five-year Launch Operator License from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The FAA Launch Operator License was granted to the company for its Electron missions to be conducted in its Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2, located on Wallops Island, Virginia. Rocket Lab's new five-year accreditation allows the company to conduct multiple launches from the Virginia site. The company will no longer need to file and request for individual licenses for each and every mission they will conduct, streamlining their processes toward sending satellites.

Rocket Lab Electron Rocket
(Photo: Scott Andrews via Wikimedia Commons)
A National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload was successfully launched aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from Launch Complex-1, Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, at 3:56 p.m. NZDT on Jan. 31, 2020.

Ahead of NASA's Artemis Mission

Rocket Lab attaining the FAA Launch Operator License is a huge administrative milestone for the California-based aerospace company. Its future Electron projects will reportedly include a NASA lunar orbit mission in support of the Artemis program - the NASA mission to send humans back to the Moon and later, to Mars.

The Electron launch vehicle and its Photon satellite, both platforms developed by the Rocket Lab, will be used in the upcoming Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE). This experimental mission will launch Electron and Photon to the same NRHO, or near rectilinear halo orbit, that will be used in the future project called Lunar Gateway - a joint project between different space agencies to establish a multi-purpose facility at lunar orbit.

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CAPSTONE will validate the navigation techniques and test the dynamics involved in this halo-shaped orbit. The data from this mission will guide the next spaceflight missions to the Moon and beyond.

"Having FAA Launch Operator Licenses for missions from both Rocket Lab launch complexes enables us to provide rapid, responsive launch capability for small satellite operators," said Peter Beck, founder, and CEO of Rocket Labs, in a press release. "With 14 missions already launched from LC-1, Electron is well established as the reliable, flight-proven vehicle of choice for small sat missions spanning national security, science, and exploration."

 

Peter Beck added: "With our upcoming missions from Launch Complex 2, we're ushering in an era of even more flexibility and launch availability for these important government missions."

Rocket Lab Facilities and Recent Milestones

According to their press release The Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2, is mainly designed to offer the company's technologies and launch capabilities to US government missions. The company's other launch facility, the Launch Complex 1, is located at the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.

The company recently launched the first satellite that is mostly developed, built, and launched from the South Pacific nation. On August 31, it carried a payload for a client - the American space company Capella Space - to be carried into Earth orbit. Capella Space's Earth-imaging satellite, named Sequoia, in the mission named "I Can't Believe It's Not Optical."

RELATED: Rocket Lab Launches First Satellite Built and Launched from New Zealand

However, the company only revealed the details of the recent mission's secret payload. Aside from the Sequoia satellite, the Electron vehicle also carried Rocket Lab's own satellite, named "First Light." Shortly after the Sequoia was launched, the Electron engaged its Kick Stage - launching the 50-kilogram First Light into space.


Check out more news and information on Rocket Lab in Science Times.