HawkEye 360 is delivering data based on radio frequency (RF) geospatial insights to those working to make the world a safer place. The company operates the first-of-its-kind commercial satellite constellation to detect, characterize, and geolocate a broad range of RF signals. HawkEye 360 is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia.
Rocket Lab has been selected to deploy a constellation of satellites across three Electron missions for HawkEye 360, a radio frequency geospatial analytics company.
The multi-launch contract with HawkEye 360 will see Rocket Lab deliver 15 satellites (five clusters) to low Earth orbit across three Electron missions anticipated between late 2022 and 2024. Rocket Lab will first deploy three HawkEye 360 satellites as part of a rideshare mission, followed by six satellites each on two dedicated Electron launches.
Supporting Rocket Lab’s vertical integration strategy, Rocket Lab will also supply HawkEye 360 with separation systems produced by Planetary Systems Corporation, a Maryland-based space hardware company acquired by Rocket Lab in December 2021.
The first of the three missions is scheduled to be Rocket Lab’s inaugural Electron mission from Launch Complex 2 on Wallops Island, Virginia, ushering in an era of Rocket Lab launches from U.S. soil
Designed, manufactured, and launched by Rocket Lab, Electron is a two-stage launch vehicle powered by liquid oxygen (LOx) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1). By incorporating an orbital transfer vehicle stage (Kick Stage) that can deploy multiple payloads to unique orbits on the same mission, Electron can support dedicated missions and rideshares.
Height: 18 m / 59 ft
Diameter: 1.2 m / 3.9 ft
Stages: 2 + Kick Stage
Wet mass: 13,000 kg / 28,660 lb
Payload to LEO: 300 kg / 661 lb
Electron utilizes advanced carbon composite technologies throughout the launch vehicle structures, including all of Electron’s propellant tanks. The carbon-composite construction of Electron decreases mass by as much as 40 percent compared with traditional aluminum launch vehicle structures. Rocket Lab fabricates tanks and other carbon composite structures in-house to improve cost efficiency and drive rapid production.
Electron is powered by the in-house designed and produced additively manufactured Rutherford engines.
Electron’s first stage consists of nine sea-level Rutherford engines, linerless common bulkhead tanks for LOx and RP-1, and an interstage.
Rocket Lab’s flagship engine, the 5,600 lbf (24 kN) Rutherford, is an electric pumped LOx/ kerosene engine specifically designed for the Electron launch vehicle. Rutherford adopts an entirely new electric propulsion cycle, making use of brushless DC electric motors and high-performance lithium polymer batteries to drive its propellant pumps. This cuts down on much of the complex turbomachinery typically required for gas generator cycle engines, meaning that the Rutherford is simpler to build than a traditional engine but can achieve 90% efficiency. 130 Rutherford engines have been flown to space on Electron as of July 2020. Rutherford is also the first oxygen/hydrocarbon engine to use additive manufacturing for all primary components, including the regeneratively cooled thrust chamber, injector pumps, and main propellant valves. The Stage 1 and Stage 2 Rutherford engines are identical, with the exception of a larger expansion ratio nozzle for Stage 2 for improved performance in near-vacuum-conditions. All aspects of the Rutherford engines are completely designed in-house and are manufactured directly at our Long Beach headquarters in California, USA.
Electron’s second stage consists of a single vacuum-optimized Rutherford engine, and linerless common bulkhead tanks for LOx and kerosene. With an expanded nozzle, Electron’s second-stage engine produces a thrust of 5,800 lbf and has a specific impulse of 343 sec.
The 1.2 m diameter second stage has approximately 2,000 kg of propellant on board. The Electron Stage 2 has a burn time of approximately five minutes with a Rutherford vacuum engine as it places the Kick Stage into orbit.
High Voltage Batteries (HVBs) batteries provide power to the LOx and kerosene pumps for high-pressure combustion while a pressurant system is used to provide enough pump inlet pressure to safely operate. During the second stage burn, two HVBs power the electric pumps until depletion, when a third HVB takes over for the remainder of the second stage burn. Upon depletion, the first two HVBs are jettisoned from Electron to reduce mass and increase performance in flight.
The engine thrust is directed with electromechanical thrust vector actuators in two axes. Roll control is provided via a cold gas reaction control system (RCS
Rocket Lab’s Kick Stage offers our customers unmatched flexibility for orbital deployment. The Kick Stage is a third stage of the Electron launch vehicle used to circularize and raise orbits to deploy payloads to unique and precise orbital destinations. The Kick Stage is powered by Rocket Lab’s in-house designed and built Curie engine. In its simplest form, the Kick Stage serves as in-space propulsion to deploy payloads to orbit. It its most advanced configuration the Kick Stage becomes Photon, Rocket Lab’s satellite bus that supports several-year duration missions to LEO, MEO, Lunar, and interplanetary destinations.
Credit: Rocket Lab
Located at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia, Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2 represents a new national launch capability for the United States.
Launch Complex 2 is Rocket Lab’s second launch site for the Electron launch vehicle. It joins Rocket Lab’s first site, Launch Complex 1, located on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula.
In addition to the pad itself, Launch Complex 2 will also be home to an Integration and Control Facility located within the Wallops Research Park for processing payloads and Electron launch vehicles prior to lift-off. The ICF will house multiple Electron launch vehicles for pre-launch integration and will be home to Launch Complex 2 Range Control operations, payload integrations cleanrooms, and administrative offices.
With the launch site now operational, Launch Complex 2 is expected to employ up to 30 people in engineering, launch safety, and administrative positions in the coming year.
Credit: Trevor Mahlmann