• Customer: BlackSky
  • Launch Vehicle: Rocket Lab Electron
  • Launch Location: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
  • Total spacecraft: 2

RL-7, a dedicated Rocket Lab Electron launch for two BlackSky smallsats in May 2021, represents Spaceflight’s 39th launch. Spaceflight secured the capacity aboard the vehicle, designed the adapters and harnessing, and executed the integration of the payload.


From Spaceflight Now 5/15/21: A Rocket Lab Electron launcher malfunctioned about two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff from New Zealand Saturday, destroying two BlackSky Earth-imaging satellites in the launch company’s second failed flight in less than a year. Rocket Lab confirmed the failure after a live video stream from the Electron launcher appeared to show the rocket’s second stage tumbling about two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff from New Zealand.

Any launch failure is unfortunate and we are devastated for our customer BlackSky at the loss of their mission. We will share more info as we learn it, but we know our friends at BlackSky and Rocket Lab are more determined than ever to get back to the launch pad. As are we!


With six satellites in commercial operations, BlackSky is preparing for several launches in 2021. Spaceflight is supporting BlackSky across several missions, including launching eight BlackSky smallsats across four dedicated Rocket Lab Electron missions. Earlier this year, a BlackSky smallsat was successfully deployed from Rocket Lab’s “They Go Up So Fast” rideshare mission (RL-6) in March 2021.

BlackSky’s enhanced commissioning capabilities including advanced levels of automation and asynchronous system evaluations allow rapid integration of new satellites into its constellation. This enables the company to rapidly grow its space sensor network and extend capacity to deliver real-time intelligence with an hourly average of dawn-to-dusk imaging revisit rates and average 90-minute delivery times.

With a high volume of satellites planned for orbit, BlackSky turned to Spaceflight to support its launch needs. The two companies are long-time partners. In fact, Spaceflight has supported all of BlackSky’s launches to date, including ISRO’s PSLV-C43 mission and Spaceflight’s SSO-A dedicated Falcon 9 rideshare mission in 2018, Rocket Lab’s “Make It Rain” and “Look Ma, No Hands” missions in 2019, a SpaceX Starlink rideshare mission in 2020, and most recently Rocket Lab’s “They Go Up So Fast” mission earlier this year.

“Being able to turn to Spaceflight to manage our missions, from identifying the right launch partner to executing the integration at the launch site allows our team to remain focused on driving our mission forward.” — Brian E. O’Toole, CEO of BlackSky


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