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Rocket Lab inks deal to launch five missions for BlackSky constellation

The deployment of nine of BlackSky’s latest-generation small sats across five Electron missions represents the largest number of satellites BlackSky has committed to a single launch provider to date.

Rocket Lab has announced it will launch multiple missions to Low Earth orbit for BlackSky, a provider of real-time geospatial intelligence and global monitoring services. 

The agreement with Spaceflight Inc., who will manage the integration and launch services for BlackSky, includes the launch of nine BlackSky satellites across five Electron missions this year. The deal represents the largest number of satellites BlackSky has committed to a single launch provider to date and includes the successful launch of BlackSky’s latest spacecraft on Rocket Lab’s “They Go Up So Fast” rideshare mission earlier this week.

Eight of BlackSky’s 130 kg class satellites will be launched across four dedicated missions on Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle throughout 2021 in a demonstration of rapidly-acquired launch services. This responsive launch capability supports the aggressive scaling of BlackSky’s satellite constellation to meet the demand for real-time global monitoring and analysis services for public and private organisations. These satellites will join three existing BlackSky satellites launched by Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle across 2019 and on the most recent mission this week. The agreement also includes options for an additional two dedicated missions on Electron in Q4 2021.

Rocket Lab Founder and CEO, Peter Beck, says Electron’s dedicated launch service provides the reliability and speed to space that is critical for companies like BlackSky building out their satellite constellations and growing their businesses.

Beck said: “We’re thrilled to be providing dedicated and reliable access to orbit for Spaceflight and its customer BlackSky. Electron puts our customers in control of their launch schedule and orbital deployment parameters, giving them more certainty in crucial business growth phases. By securing streamlined space access on Electron, BlackSky can focus on what matters most to their mission – providing real-time, actionable data to decision-makers on the ground when they need it most.”

Brian E. O’Toole, CEO of BlackSky, added: “Rocket Lab simplifies the path to orbit. Dedicated launch on Electron is the key enabler for us to rapidly develop our constellation on our own terms which is hugely important in unlocking more analytic and data-driven opportunities for our customers.”

The BlackSky satellites join a busy launch manifest for Rocket Lab in 2021 which includes a scheduled dedicated mission for the US Space Force, a mission to the Moon for NASA, and launches for a range of commercial customers. Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle is the second most frequently launched US rocket annually since 2019, having deployed more than 100 satellites to space for commercial and government customers across 17 orbital missions. The electron has become a workhorse launch vehicle for the small satellite industry and provides uniquely targeted access to orbit for constellation satellites.

The launch agreement follows on from a March 1 announcement that Rocket Lab USA, Inc. and Vector Acquisition Corporation, a special purpose acquisition company backed by leading technology investor Vector Capital, have entered into a definitive merger agreement that will result in Rocket Lab becoming a publicly-traded company. The transaction is estimated to be completed in Q2 2021 and, at that time, Vector will change its name to Rocket Lab USA, Inc. and the combined company is expected to trade under the Nasdaq ticker symbol RKLB.