As Rocket Lab prepares the next launch of its Electron rocket, it and other small launch vehicle developers say the U.S. government can be a better and smarter customer for their services.
A Rocket Lab Electron is scheduled to lift off from the company’s launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula during a two-hour window that opens at 12:30 a.m. Eastern June 27. The mission, dubbed “Make It Rain,” is a dedicated rideshare mission for Spaceflight Industries carrying several small satellites, including BlackSky’s Global-3 imaging satellite, with a total payload mass of 80 kilograms.
Rocket Lab’s last two launches, though, were directly for U.S. military customers. A May 5 launch placed three technology demonstration satellites into orbit for the U.S. Air Force, while a March 28 launch placed DARPA’s Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration (R3D2) into orbit.
Despite the success in winning business from U.S. government customers, the company says it’s much easier dealing with commercial customers for its launches. Those customers often email the company asking if they can accommodate a particular satellite, said Lars Hoffman, senior vice president of global launch services at Rocket Lab, during a June 6 panel discussion at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference.
The company can then provide a quote to that customer within days, he said. “We can be on contract within a matter of a week or two weeks.”
If a government customer seeks a similar launch, though, the contracting process takes longer. “It can take months, and that’s on a streamlined” or rapid acquisition approach, he said. That can stretch out to more than a year for a more traditional acquisition.
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