Livestream: Rocket Lab launches US military satellite from Māhia Peninsula

Livestream is now over

Rocket Lab is preparing to launch an experimental satellite for the US military.

The launch will take place using an Electron rocket from the launch site in Māhia, New Zealand. It's expected to lift-off at 12.27pm.

The livestream is embedded below.

Its payload is the Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration (R3D2) satellite. It belongs to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the Pentagon agency in charge of developing cutting-edge military technology.

DARPA says the R3D2 will "monitor antenna deployment dynamics, survivability and radio frequency (RF) characteristics of a membrane antenna in low-Earth orbit".

"The antenna could enable multiple missions that currently require large satellites, to include high data rate communications to disadvantaged users on the ground," officials wrote in a statement.

The DARPA R3D2 mission is Rocket Lab's fourth orbital mission and the company's first launch in 2019.

"The mission highlights US government demand for the type of responsive, ultra-flexible and rapidly acquired launch service that characterises the Rocket Lab launch experience on Electron," Rocket Lab says.

Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck says small satellite launch capabilities are increasingly important to US government organisations like DARPA.

"The ability to rapidly space-qualify new technology and deploy space-based assets with confidence on short notice is a service that didn't exist for dedicated small satellites until now," he says.

"We're honoured to provide Electron's agile and flexible launch service to DARPA and we look forward to delivering the innovative R3D2 payload to orbit."

But some experts warn that the launch might create risks to New Zealand's national security.

"An opponent of America could see New Zealand as a more vulnerable area in which to target indirectly America's space programme or defence program," Massey University Centre for Defence and Security Studies lecturer Terry Johanson told The Spinoff.

"For example, Russia, North Korea or China could potentially undertake operations here to sabotage the American defense programme."


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