Rocket Lab launches first of back-to-back missions for NASA

Rocket Lab launched the Ready, Aim, PREFIRE mission for NASA over the weekend from Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. This is the first of two CubeSats that will study how the Earth absorbs heat over its polar regions.

PREFIRE, or Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-InfraRed Experiment, will be the first mission to study the Polar regions in infrared and far-infrared wavelengths.

Now that the first mission is underway, Rocket Lab and NASA are already busy preparing for the 2nd mission, PREFIRE and Ice, with a launch date to be announced in the next few days. That mission will also take place from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand.

With NASA selecting Rocket Lab, they are able to get these two CubeSats to orbit much faster to begin their science mission instead of waiting on a rideshare mission on a much larger rocket.

The Ready, Aim, PREFIRE mission was Rocket Lab’s sixth of the year and its 48th overall. Rocket Lab did not try to recover the Electron first stage on this mission and likely won’t on the second mission either.

The Rocket Lab team is also still progressing with their Neutron rocket and launch facilities to support the larger rocket. Teams recently completed the water tower that will protect the pad and rocket at lift-off and are making progress on the integration facility in Virginia.

Rocket Lab was also recently awarded a launch contract from the United States Space Force that will require it to launch Electron with a Rocket Lab-built satellite with just 24 hours’ notice.

Disclosure: Richard Angle is not an RKLB shareholder.

Questions or comments? Shoot me an email at, or Tweet me @RDAnglePhoto.

Richard Angle: Launch journalist, specializing in launch photography. Based on the Space Coast, a short drive from Cape Canaveral and the SpaceX launch pads.
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