Rocket Lab will launch its first National Reconnaissance Office intelligence satellite on U.S. soil at Wallops Island this week. Photo: Rocket Lab

Wallops Island Poised for Rocket Lab Satellite Launch

Another rocket launch on Virginia’s Eastern Shore is planned for this week, and this one will mark the first time Rocket Lab sends up an intelligence satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office from U.S. soil.

Rocket Lab USA will launch a dedicated mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) from Launch Complex 2 on Wallops Island, Virginia. The launch window opens in the early morning hours of Thursday, March 21st, but depends on conditions.

This NRO mission, called ‘Live and Let Fly’, will be Rocket Lab’s first launch for the NRO from the United States after previously launching four NRO missions from New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. It will be Rocket Lab’s fourth mission from Launch Complex 2, a dedicated pad for the Electron rocket. The complex is located within the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

“Electron has been providing reliable access to orbit for the NRO since 2020 and we’re honored to once again provide critical launch capability, this time from U.S. soil,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. “The ability to reliably launch national security missions from pads in two countries is a unique,” Beck said. “We’re immensely proud to deliver this capability to the NRO, enabling them to maintain the nation’s advantage in space.”

The Live and Let Fly and other NRO missions provide critical information to more than a half-million government users, including every member of the Intelligence Community, two dozen domestic agencies, the military, lawmakers, and other decision makers. Rocket Lab’s launches for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) carry classified payloads.

Wallops Island, a hub of aerospace activity nestled on the eastern shore of Virginia, has long been a critical site for satellite launches, scientific research, and space exploration. Operated by NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, its strategic location for sending payloads into orbit make it a cornerstone in the U.S.’s space launch capabilities. In recent years, Wallops Island has seen an expansion in its launch activities through partnerships with commercial space firms, notably Rocket Lab, a leader in the small satellite launch market.

The launch will broadcast live at Follow the National Reconnaissance Office on Facebook for schedule updates. The launch will happen no sooner than 2:40am on Thursday. The mission is scheduled to be Rocket Lab’s fourth launch of 2024 and 46th Electron launch overall.