Aerospace company Rocket Lab has announced that its next mission will be carrying payloads from Planet and Canon Electronics through the ridesharing capacities of its Electron rocket, September 22.

The upcoming mission was named "In Focus," referencing its payloads that are both Earth-imaging satellites. Rocket Lab is looking at an October 2020 launch window from its Launch Complex 1 (LC-1), its private commercial spaceport located near Ahuriri Point, at the southern part of Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand.

Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, New Zealand
(Photo: Planet Twitter Account)
A picture of the southern part of the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, where Rocket Labs' Launch Complex 1 is located.


The "In Focus" Satellite Payloads

Planet, an American private company that specializes in taking images of the Earth, will be sending nine of its latest generation SuperDove satellites. The latest "Flock 4e" will be deployed onboard the Electron rocket, from LC-1 in New Zealand to a 500-kilometer morning-crossing SSO, or Sun Synchronous Orbit. Each SuperDove will be leaving the Electron rocket through Rocket Labs' Maxwell dispensers, the lightest dispense module in its class. The satellites within Flock 4e will join the rest of Planet's constellation of SuperDoves in providing medium-resolution coverage of the Earth, with regular near-daily revisits.

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The tenth and final payload, after the nine SuperDoves, is the CE-SAT-IIB created by Canon Electronics and will avail the Rocket Labs' ridesharing capabilities through the mission management services offered by Spaceflight Inc. The technical demonstration microsatellite by Canon is fitted with a medium-sized telescope with its own ultra-high sensitivity camera. CE-SAT-IIB will be taking nighttime images of the earth. It also has small-sized telescopes ideal for CubeSat use.

According to Rocket Lab's announcement, founder and CEO Peter Beck said that the mission demonstrates Electron's "industry-leading flexibility" for small satellite operators by allowing multiple payloads to get to their various destinations in a ride-sharing setup.

"With Electron, we designed a launch system that makes access to space easy and puts our customers in the driver's seat of their missions, and we're proud to be delivering on that even through times of global disruption," Beck said in the statement.


Rocket Labs' Fifteenth Overall Mission

The October 2020 flight, carrying nine Planet and one Canon payloads, marks the fifteenth mission for the Electron rocket and its fifth flight this year. This upcoming mission will make Electron the second most-frequently launched US-made rocket this year.

The payloads are similar to the Electron's unfortunate thirteenth mission, named "Pics or Didn't Happen," earlier this year. In July, Planet arranged for its 5 SuperDove satellites while Canon was set to send its CE-SAT-IB through the Electron's ridesharing capabilities. "Pics or Didn't Happen" saw its flight fail during the second stage burn, where there was a faulty electrical connection that remained undetected during preflight tests.

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Also, Rocket Lab has noted that they still have multiple missions slated for 2020, including one in the fourth quarter that will see the company's first attempt for an Electron first stage recovery. The trusty Rocket Lab rocket will be fitted with new hardware for the attempt, including an in-house designed parachute system and a reaction control system. These new setups are expected to guide the booster stage during descent, landing in the ocean, and be collected by a ship.

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