Rocket Lab Electron launches small StriX-α radar sat

by | Dec 15, 2020 | Launches, Satellites, Seradata News

At 1009 GMT on 15 December 2020, a Rocket Lab Electron KS rocket was launched into a near polar Sun-synchronous low Earth orbit (LEO) from the Onenui station on the Mahia peninsula in New Zealand.  On board was a small 150 kg synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite called StriX Alpha (StriX-α).  The satellite is owned by the Japanese firm Synspective Inc which is planning a constellation of slightly smaller SAR satellites. A specially modified fairing was needed for the satellite’s shape. The preliminary orbit achieved was 511 x 489km at 97.4 degrees inclination.

Electron lifts off carrying Strix-Alpha. Courtesy: Rocket Lab

This was an expendable launch with no experimental attempt to parachute the upper stage back to Earth as happened on the previous Electron flight. The launch was delayed by one day due to a surprising reason. The total solar eclipse over South America was deemed to be a danger to the satellite’s mission lest StriX Alpha fell into shadow draining its batteries during its initial orbit.

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