In the next few days, US spaceflight startup Rocket Lab is set to launch its experimental Electron rocket for the second time — a test flight that will validate if the vehicle is ready for sending small commercial payloads to orbit. The rocket is slated to take off from the company’s launch facility in New Zealand, and unlike the Electron’s first test flight, we’ll get to see this one go up live.
Rocket Lab has cautioned that since this is a test flight, the company won’t fly unless conditions are more than ideal for launch and only if the rocket is truly ready. There’s a 10-day launch window for this vehicle, and Rocket Lab has the option to fly sometime during a four-hour slot each day starting at 2:30PM NZT (or 8:30PM ET the day prior for those on the East Coast). The window officially opened on December 8th in New Zealand, and that’s when Rocket Lab rolled out the Electron to the launch pad for final preparations.
However, the company has been waiting for the right weather conditions. Rocket Lab’s first launch attempt was scheduled for December 11th in New Zealand, but that was ultimately scrubbed due to weather and orbital traffic, according to the company. Rocket Lab tried again on December 12th and got close to launching, too; the Electron briefly ignited, but the vehicle’s computer aborted the mission right afterward, preventing a take off. Rocket Lab says it’s reviewing the data from that scrub and will come up with a new launch date soon.
The company’s live stream will go live 15 minutes prior to launch, so you’ll want to keep your eye on Rocket Lab’s Twitter to see when this vehicle tries to make it to space. If this launch goes well, Rocket Lab may consider itself done with test flights altogether and forge ahead with commercial missions. The company plans to live stream those launches, too, so expect many more shows from New Zealand next year.
Update December 11th, 11:05PM ET: This article was updated after Rocket Lab scrubbed its first and second launch attempts.