Strong winds forced Rocket Lab to scrub its last small satellite mission just minutes before the start of New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula on Thursday evening local time. The team paused the countdown clock several times during the launch window, but eventually time ran out.
The California-based Rocket Lab said there should be another launch option in the coming days.
The mission had an earlier start date on March 30, but had to accept delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Rocket Lab's eleventh mission in just over two years will see the launch company for small satellites carry a lot of payloads for NASA, a U.S. spy satellite agency, and two universities, Boston University in Massachusetts and the University of South Wales in Australia , send to heaven.
As part of NASA's CubeSat launch initiative, Boston University's cargo includes several small satellites, including the ANDESITE (ad hoc network demonstration for advanced satellite-based research and other team effort) created by students and professors of electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. The satellite will conduct groundbreaking scientific studies of the Earth's magnetic field and will track electrical currents that flow into and out of the atmosphere. "These fluctuations in electrical activity rushing through space can have a huge impact on our lives here on Earth and can disrupt things like radio communications and electrical systems," said Rocket Lab of California.
The mission will also carry three payloads designed, built, and operated by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NGO). As you might expect from such an organization, the details of the payloads are sparse, although Rocket Lab says the mission will enable NGOs to "explore new launch opportunities that offer an optimized, commercial approach to launching small satellites into the Bring space ".
Finally, a collaboration between the University of New South Wales, Canberra Space, and the Australian government will send the M2 Pathfinder satellite to test the communication architecture and other technologies that will help inform Australia's future space capabilities.
Rocket Lab was founded in 2006 by New Zealander Peter Beck and wants to conquer part of the carpool market for small satellite launches with its specially built electron rocket. Companies like SpaceX and Virgin Orbit also have a keen interest in the same industry.
Like SpaceX, Rocket Lab is developing a reusable rocket system that can dramatically reduce operating costs. While the SpaceX system lands the first stage booster shortly after launch, Rocket Lab takes a completely different approach in that a helicopter with a grappling hook is to be used to pluck a falling booster from the sky when it returns to Earth. It recently demonstrated the feat in a dummy missile test run. However, Thursday's mission will not include a refresh recovery.
The company announced that it has named its latest mission, "Don't Stop Me Now," in recognition of the late Rocket Lab board member and enthusiastic Queen fan Scott Smith.