Rocket Lab will launch a radar Earth-observation satellite for the California company Capella Space early Tuesday (Sept. 19), and you can watch the action live.
An Electron rocket carrying one of Capella’s “Acadia” synthetic aperture radar (SAR) spacecraft is scheduled to lift off from Rocket Lab’s New Zealand site on Tuesday at 2:30 a.m. EDT (0630 GMT; 6:30 p.m. local New Zealand time).
If all goes according to plan on Tuesday, the Electron will deploy the Acadia satellite into a circular orbit about 395 miles up (635 kilometers) about 57 minutes after liftoff. After a checkout period, the spacecraft will eye our planet in radar light, gathering data for a variety of customers.
“Capella’s satellites deliver the highest quality, high resolution SAR imagery commercially available with the ability to penetrate all weather conditions and capture clear imagery 24-7, day and night, anywhere on Earth,” Rocket Lab wrote in the mission’s press kit, which you can find here.
“The next-generation Acadia satellites include several new features that will enable faster downlink speeds and even higher-quality images for fast, reliable insights that are easily accessible through Capella’s fully automated ordering and delivery platform,” they added.
Tuesday’s mission, which Rocket Lab calls “We Will Never Desert You,” is the second in a four-launch contract to deliver Capella’s Acadia satellites to orbit. The first liftoff in that series occurred on Aug. 23.
Last month’s liftoff, which Rocket Lab named “We Love the Nightlife,” featured a big reusability milestone for the company: One of the Electron’s nine Rutherford first-stage engines had flown before.
In addition, Rocket Lab brought the rocket’s first stage down softly for a parachute-aided ocean splashdown, then hauled it back to shore for inspection and analysis. It was the eighth such rocket recovery for Rocket Lab, which is working to make Electron’s first stage reusable.
It’s unclear if “We Will Never Desert You” features similar rocket-reuse efforts; Rocket Lab has not announced any. But the company didn’t reveal that “We Love the Nightlife” would involve a preflown engine until shortly before liftoff.