Rocket Lab expands US presence with engine testing, launch facility

Rocket Lab is a US-based company, but to date, the majority of its activities have taken place in New Zealand. The company has been publicizing its plans to expand to both hemispheres for some time, but executives released a number of updates on Wednesday detailing its goal to further increase its share of launches, tests and manufacturing in the United States. I mentioned

The company shared the news with investors and the public at Rocket Lab’s Investor Day. While the event’s livestream ran into technical trouble, Rocket Lab shared all the updates in a lengthy tweet on his thread at the same time as the event (read here). Here are some of the biggest points.

Expanding presence in North America

Before the Investor Day event kicked off, Rocket Lab kicked off Wednesday morning with news. Test the neutron rocket’s Archimedes engine at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The company secured his 10-year lease of the center’s Archimedes test complex, with the option to extend the lease for another 10 years. The company also secured an undisclosed capital investment from the Mississippi Development Authority to further build out Neutron’s reusable engine infrastructure.

Image credit: rocket lab (opens in new window)

This is probably not all that surprising. Many companies have done engine testing on Stennis in the past, including SpaceX’s Raptor engine and Relativity Space’s Aeon engine. NASA already has a lot of infrastructure and test stands for engine testing, so it’s smart (not to mention economically smart) for a private company to reserve space at the center. . However, Rocket Lab still needs to build a test complex, and that’s where the capital investment can help.

Rocket Lab will also bring significant investments and activities to Wallops Island, Virginia. The company announced in February that it had selected Wallops as the location for Neutron’s first launch site and manufacturing and operations facility. Again, a wise decision. Wallops is also home to Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 2, a site for launching Electron rockets.

So far, the company has been vague at best about when Electron will take off from its Virginia site. But now more: The company plans to conduct its first launch from his LC-2 in December 2022, and his second mission a few weeks later at the beginning of the new year. said.

Neutrons are… interplanetary?

Rocket Lab also delivered the long-awaited Neutron update. Neutron’s latest render looks a little different than what we’ve seen before, but the high-level overview is the same as the previous render released late last year. The company’s inclusion of “interplanetary” in its list of vehicle mission profiles has definitely not escaped attention either.

One of the big design changes is the fairing. The Neutron fairing does not separate from the rocket at launch, but instead opens (Rocket Lab calls it the “Hungry Hippo” for this reason). ). However, the fairing he does not open in four parts, but only in two.

The company has made commendable progress, but as we detailed in our presentation, we still have a long way to go before the end of 2023. However, the company is on track with his first Neutron launch scheduled for 2024.

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