WASHINGTON — Small launch vehicle developer Rocket Lab will launch an experimental satellite for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in February, the first of a planned dozen launches in 2019.
Rocket Lab announced Jan. 22 that it will launch a small satellite for DARPA on the company’s Electron rocket from its launch site in New Zealand. That launch will take place in February, likely late in the month, Rocket Lab Chief Executive Peter Beck said in an interview.
The payload is a satellite developed by DARPA called Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration (R3D2) that will test technologies for deployable antennas. Once in orbit, R3D2 will deploy a Kapton membrane that will expand to a diameter of 2.25 meters to demonstrate the ability to small satellites to carry large deployable antennas needed to support high-bandwidth communications.
The 150-kilogram satellite will be the only payload on the launch as it takes up all the mass and volume available on the rocket. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for R3D2, with the antenna provided by MMA Design and the satellite bus by Blue Canyon Technologies.
The antenna for the R3D2 spacecraft during deployment tests on the ground. Credit: MMA Design