October 5, 2022

Robotic Notes

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Seattle’s Space Needle rises on Rocket Lab mission patch

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The rocket nose cone for Rocket Lab’s mission to launch two BlackSky satellites is emblazoned with a mission patch that features Seattle’s Space Needle on the right side. (Rocket Lab via Twitter)

What could be more fitting than to put Seattle’s Space Needle on the patch for an actual space mission?

Even though this particular mission is due to be launched half a world away, there’s more than one Seattle connection to the Rocket Lab mission that’s due for liftoff as early as April 1.

The payloads for the launch from Rocket Lab’s base on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula are two satellites built by a Seattle-area manufacturer, LeoStella, for BlackSky’s Earth-observing constellation. LeoStella is a joint venture co-owned by Thales Alenia Space, a French-Italian venture; and BlackSky, which is based in the Washington, DC, area but has a Seattle office.

Most significantly, preparations for the launch were handled by Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc., which specializes in making the arrangements for putting small satellites like BlackSky’s spacecraft into orbit.

On the patch for the mission, whimsically dubbed “Without Mission a Beat,” the Space Needle rises to the right of Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle.

“It’s a great patch, no?” Jodi Sorensen, Spaceflight Inc.’s vice president of marketing, said in a tweet. “The Needle’s a nod to @SpaceflightIncand we love it! ”

In a parallel nod to BlackSky, the Washington Monument is also on the patch.

CollectSpace’s Robert Pearlman, who keeps close track of news angles involving space artifacts and memorabilia, said this could well be the first time Seattle’s iconic monument has been featured on a space mission patch, “unless the Space Needle appeared on a payload patch.”

“A quick search didn’t bring up any other examples,” he said in a tweet.

“Without Mission a Beat” will mark the 25th launch for Rocket Lab, which became a publicly traded company last August thanks to a blank-check merger. BlackSky, which was once Spaceflight Inc.’s sister company, also went public last year.

The launch would boost BlackSky’s constellation to 14 satellites, marking one more step toward the company’s goal of having 30 satellites in low Earth orbit. BlackSky is already delivering a steady flow of satellite photos for government and commercial clients, including imagery documenting the effects of the war in Ukraine.

The patch for “Without Mission a Beat” is likely to show up in Rocket Lab’s online store after liftoff. Spaceflight Inc. has its own patch for the mission, which it calls RL-11.





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