Rocket Lab successfully launches the ‘Beginning of the Swarm’ mission

Rocket Lab successfully launched the “Beginning of the Swarm” mission, its 47th overall yesterday.

Electron took the skies at 10:32 am NZT from Launch Complex 1B on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, sending two small payloads to vastly different orbits.

The launch was originally scheduled for 10:15 a.m. NZT, just 2 minutes before a Falcon 9 mission from Florida, but it held at t – 12 minutes as the Rocket Lab team worked on a ground support system issue. It didn’t take long for teams to work on the issue, and Electron launched safely from LC-1B.

The primary payload was NEONSAT-1 for the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and Satellite Technology Research Center. This is the first of an eventual 11-satellite constellation. The satellite features a high-resolution camera that will monitor the Korean peninsula and help with recovery after natural disasters.

NEONSAT-1 was deployed into a 520 km circular orbit 50 minutes after lift-off.

The secondary payload was NASA’s Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3). This satellite is meant to test new materials for the boom that deploys the sail itself. Once deployed, it is about the size of a small apartment.

ACS-3 was deployed into a much higher orbit than NEONSAT-1 thanks to the abilities of the Electron Kick Stage, which ignited 3 times with one final burn to circularize the orbit and deploy the satellite at 1000 km nearly an hour after the first payload deployment.

While Rocket Lab did not recover the Electron first stage, they confused many viewers when it was revealed that the first stage featured the red and silver look that is used on recovery missions.

However, as Rocket Lab is progressing towards full first-stage re-usability, these Electrons are now in the standard production flow, according to the company. Yesterday’s mission required Electron to be expended.

Next up for Rocket Lab is likely a dedicated launch for Capella Space, which will launch an Acadia synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite with a to-be-confirmed launch date.

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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