Rocket Lab has received a Launch Operator License from the Federal Aviation Administration paving the way for its first mission on US soil in Wallops Island, Virginia.
So far, the private space company has launched from a location in New Zealand, but the FAA clearance will allow Rocket Lab to increase the frequency of launches and serve more customers, including U.S. government agencies, who would prefer to launch from Americans Ground.
The FAA green light news comes just days after Rocket Lab's first launch since a failure in July when an airborne complication resulted in the loss of an electron rocket and its seven satellite payload.
In a tweet, Rocket Lab described the FAA license as "an important step towards the first electron launches from US soil".
Rocket Lab has received a Launch Operator License for Electron Missions from LC-2 from @FAANews! This is an important step towards the first electron launches from US soil. pic.twitter.com/ETe7lcF3Tw
– Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) September 1, 2020
The FAA's decision to grant Rocket Lab a Launch Operator license means the company will be able to conduct multiple launches from its recently constructed Launch Complex-2 (LC-2) location for the next five years without a new launch-specific one Must apply for license for every mission.
Rocket Lab said the simplified form of licensing "gives the US government better access to space for smalltats," adding that it can now conduct up to 130 on its three launch pads – two in New Zealand and one in the US starts annually.
One of the first LC-2 electron launches is a moon mission for NASA as part of the Artemis program of the US space agency. However, the company has yet to announce dates for the launch of the first missiles
Rocket Lab was founded in 2006 with the aim of making it into the Smallsat launch ridesharing market. SpaceX recently launched such a service with its Falcon 9 rocket, while Virgin Orbit is also working towards a similar goal.
Like SpaceX, Rocket Lab is working on developing a reusable missile system to reduce operating costs. While the SpaceX system shuts down the first stage booster shortly after takeoff in a controlled landing, Rocket Lab plans to use a helicopter with a grappling hook to pluck a falling booster from the sky, which will soon parachute back to earth after it the start. The company recently demonstrated the maneuver in a test run with a dummy missile.