The idea of “rapid launch” – much mooted in the past – is finally becoming a reality. New Zealand-based rocket provider Rocket Lab has announced that the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has ordered an Electron launch for its NRO-151 mission, unofficially codenamed “Bird of a Feather”. The order has been made under the NRO’s Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) programme.

Very little gas been disclosed about this satellite or about which orbit it was being sent to.

The announcement of the launch contract was on 20 January 2020.  The launch took place less than two weeks after this, with the lift off from the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand occurring at 0256 GMT on 31 January. This was the first launch of an NRO satellite from a launch site outside of the USA.

The second Electron vehicle lifts-off from the Mahia Peninsula. Courtesy of Rocket Lab