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Rocket Lab set to launch dual-orbit mission featuring KAIST and NASA satellites
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Rocket Lab set to launch dual-orbit mission featuring KAIST and NASA satellites
by Simon Mansfield
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Apr 02, 2024

Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (NASDAQ: RKLB) has announced the launch window for its upcoming Electron mission named 'Beginning Of The Swarm'. The mission, set to take off from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand, has a 14-day launch window beginning April 24th. This mission will deploy two satellites, NEONSAT-1 for the Satellite Technology Research Center (SaTReC) at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), and NASA's Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3), into separate orbits.

The mission's main satellite, NEONSAT-1, marks the initiation of the NEONSAT program by SaTReC and KAIST, targeting Earth observation to enhance natural disaster monitoring on the Korean Peninsula. Utilizing a high-resolution optical camera paired with artificial intelligence, NEONSAT-1 aims to provide critical data for disaster response. This initiative, supported by a collaboration among multiple Korean academic, industry, and research institutions, signifies Korea's ongoing commitment to space and technology development. Furthermore, the program, supported by the Korean government's Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT), plans for additional launches in 2026 and 2027 to expand the NEONSAT constellation.

Complementing the mission is NASA's ACS3, a technology demonstration aimed at advancing solar sail propulsion technologies. Employing new materials and deployable structures, ACS3's solar sail, comparable in size to a small apartment, will be propelled by sunlight, offering a propellant-free method of spacecraft propulsion. This demonstration, crucial for the development of future space missions, including early warning systems for space weather and exploratory missions to asteroids, is a collaborative effort involving NASA's Langley Research Center and Ames Research Center.

A key feature of this mission is the flexibility of Rocket Lab's Electron Kick Stage, which is capable of multiple engine burns to deliver satellites to their precise orbits. For 'Beginning Of The Swarm', the Kick Stage will first deploy NEONSAT-1 into a 520km Earth orbit. Following this, a series of burns will position ACS3 into a 1,000km orbit, showcasing the Kick Stage's capability for intricate orbital maneuvers. This mission further emphasizes Rocket Lab's commitment to sustainable space operations through planned deorbit maneuvers.

Scheduled as Rocket Lab's fifth launch of 2024 and the 47th Electron mission overall, 'Beginning Of The Swarm' highlights the company's ongoing role in providing versatile launch solutions. The launch will be broadcast live, enabling global audiences to witness this significant space event.

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