Rocket Lab taps Wallops Island for US launch site -not Florida

California-based company had been considering Cape Canaveral

Rocket Lab Electron 'It's Business Time' on the pad at LC-1. (Photo credit: Kieran Fanning)
Rocket Lab Electron 'It's Business Time' on the pad at LC-1. (Photo credit: Kieran Fanning)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Space startup Rocket Lab won't be launching from Cape Canaveral for the company's first U.S. launch. 

The California-based space company announced Wednesday that out of the four sites it was considering for its U.S.-based launch pad it went with NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Currently, Rocket Lab only launches from the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. The company’s sleek black Electron rocket is made of lightweight carbon composite materials and can launch small payloads under 500 pounds.

Cape Canaveral, the Pacific Spaceport in Alaska and California's Vandenberg Air Force Base were also considered for Launch Complex 2.

Florida's spaceport authority, Space Florida, had been working with Rocket Lab to secure that bid.

"Space Florida remains in dialogue with a number of small launch providers for future launches and operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport," Space Florida spokeswoman Sara Shell said.

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said his company worked with Virginia Space and the Mid-Atlantic Spaceport to design a pad that will streamline small satellite launches.

“Accessing space should be simple, seamless and tailored to our customers’ missions - from idea to orbit. Launching from a second pad builds on Rocket Lab’s ability to offer the small satellite industry unmatched schedule and launch location flexibility,” Beck said. “Having proven the Electron vehicle with a successful orbital launch this year, we’re thrilled to expand on our ability to provide rapid, reliable and affordable access to orbit for small satellites.”

A ground breaking ceremony at the new launch site is happening Wednesday.

The first mission from launch complex 2 at Wallops could happen sometime in late 2019, according to the news release from Rocket Lab.

“Wallops has more than 70 years of experience successfully supporting missions using suborbital as well as small and medium-class orbital launch vehicles," NASA Wallops Director Bill Wrobel said. "We look forward, along with our partner Virginia Space and its Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, to supporting Rocket Lab’s Electron missions and expanding commercial launch operations from Wallops.”

Earlier this month, the Wallops Flight Facility opened two buildings as part of a $25 million project. The two facilities will serve as a hub for mission control and launch pad support, the second building is a new fire station.

Rocket Lab leaders say they want to launch 130 missions per year between the two launch sites.

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