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How to watch SpaceX competitor Rocket Lab launch NASA and spy satellites – CNET

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Rocket Lab’s launch of an Electron Rocket.

Rocket Lab/Kieran Fanning & Sam Toms

With Elon Musk and SpaceX setting their sights on bigger spacecraft and far-off destinations like the moon and Mars, other commercial space companies including Rocket Lab are following the path paved by Musk and offering launches of smaller satellites to orbit.

Rocket Lab is headquartered in California like SpaceX. It also aims to retrieve and reuse its rockets, but rather than land them like Musk’s Falcon 9, Rocket Lab hopes to snag its Electron rockets out of the air using a helicopter shortly after launch. The company has demonstrated the recovery process but has yet to recover a rocket during one of its commercial launches.  

The launch window for Rocket Lab’s next mission, dubbed “Don’t Stop Me Now,” opens Thursday (local time) from its launch pad in New Zealand. Blast-off could happen as soon as 9:43 p.m. PT Wednesday, but there’s not necessarily a huge rush as there will be a daily launch opportunity of about two hours each day until June 24. As of 6:55 p.m. PT Wednesday evening time, things looked promising for the scheduled launch, with Electron vertical on the launchpad. 

The mission is a ride share that will deliver a NASA-sponsored CubeSat built by students and staff at Boston University to study Earth’s magnetic field. The CubeSat will later release eight even smaller pico satellites with sensors to track space weather. It will be joined in the payload by the Australian M2 Pathfinder satellite to test space communications architecture.

Also sharing the lift will be three payloads for the American spy shop, the National Reconnaissance Office, or NRO. 

As for the musical name to the mission, it has nothing to do with NASA or the NRO.

“The mission has been named ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ in recognition of Rocket Lab board member and avid Queen fan Scott Smith, who recently passed away,” reads a release from the company

Rocket Lab won’t attempt to recover the Electron on this mission, but it will still be livestreaming the whole thing so you can get your launch fix. The broadcast will begin about 20 minutes before launch on the company’s website and YouTube. 

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