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Rocket Lab to Launch R3D2 Prototype for DARPA Today! Here's How to Watch.



The commercial launch provider Rocket Lab is counting down to its first flight of 2019, an experimental satellite for the U.S. military, and you can watch it online today (March 24).

A Rocket Lab Electron booster will launch the R3D2 satellite for DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Agency. Liftoff is set for no earlier than 6:30 pm EDT (2230 GMT) from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on the Peninsula Māhia in New Zealand, where it will be Monday local time. Rocket Lab has a four-hour launch window for the flight.

You will be able to watch the Rocket Lab launch on Space.com, courtesy of the company's live stream. You can also watch it directly from Rocket Lab here. The webcast will begin 1

5 minutes before liftoff and could start later in the launch window if needed. Related Articles: Rocket Lab's First Commercial Launch in Pictures

"Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck wrote on Twitter last week .

Today's liftoff will mark the first launch of the year for Rocket Lab, which hopes to follow it with monthly flights throughout 2019. The mission has been delayed since February due to a DARPA launch in delivering the R3D2 satellite to Rocket Lab's launch site .

The R3D2 prototype spacecraft antenna is seen in packed and deployed positions. DARPA will launch the satellite test flight on a Rocket Lab Electron Booster.

(Image: © DARPA)

The R3D2 satellite is a test flight aimed at demonstrating a new type of space antenna, according to DARPA. The 330-lb. (150 kilograms) payload is a tightly packed "membrane reflectarray antenna" made of tissue-thin Kapton that is designed to unfurl out to a maximum diameter of approximately 7.3 feet (2.3 meters)

"R3D2 will monitor antenna deployment dynamics, Survivability and radio frequency (RF) characteristics of a membrane antenna in low-Earth orbit, "DARPA officials wrote in a statement. "The antenna could allow multiple missions that currently require large satellites, including high data rate communications to disadvantaged users on the ground."

The satellite took just 18 months to design and build, according to DARPA. successful demonstration will also help to prove a smaller, faster-to-launch and lower cost capability, allowing the Department of Defense, as well as other users, to make the most of the new commercial market for small, low-cost launch vehicles, " agency wrote.

Rocket Lab's Electron Booster is a small launch vehicle designed to launch payloads of up to 496 lbs. (225 kilograms) into a low-Earth orbit.

In a January statement, Beck said Huntington Beach, California-based Rocket Lab was excited to launch the R3D2 mission from DARPA

"Rapid the acquisition of small satellite launch capabilities is increasingly important to US government organizations like DARPA, "Beck said. "The ability to quickly space-qualify new technology and deploy space-based assets with confidence on short notice is a service that did not exist for dedicated small satellites until now."

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik @ space .com or follow him @ tariqjmalik . Follow us @Spacedotcom and Facebook .


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