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No stopping Rocket Lab in new alert level

Efforts to put a top secret United States Government satellite into orbit from Mahia will resume next month after Covid-19 lockdown rules postponed previous efforts.

US-based space technology company Rocket Lab, which postponed its 12th Mahia launch from its original date of March 27, will open a new launch window from June 11.

The mission, named Don't Stop me Now, will loft payloads for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra Space.

This mission also carries three payloads designed, built and operated by the NRO.

The mission was procured under the agency's Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) contract vehicle.

RASR allows the NRO to explore new launch opportunities that provide a streamlined commercial approach for getting small satellites into space, as well as providing those working in the small satellite community with timely and cost-effective access to space.

Further details are classified.

NASA's ANDESITE (Ad-Hoc Network Demonstration for Extended Satellite-Based Inquiry and Other Team Endeavors) satellite will launch as part of the agency's CubeSat Launch Initiative.

Created by students and researchers at Boston University, ANDESITE will conduct “ground-breaking” scientific study into the Earth's magnetic field.

The final payload on board is the M2 Pathfinder satellite built in a collaboration between UNSW Canberra Space and the Australian Government.

The M2 Pathfinder will test communications architecture and other technologies that will help in informing the future space capabilities of Australia.

The satellite will demonstrate the ability of an on board software-based radio to operate and reconfigure while in orbit.

The Electron launch vehicle and the Launch Complex 1 ground systems at Mahia have remained in a state of readiness throughout the Covid-19 lockdown in preparation for a quick return to launch operations.

Enhanced health and safety processes will be in place for the launch in line with Government health advice to protect Rocket Lab personnel.

These measures include physical distancing, split shifts, maintaining contact tracing registers, limiting interaction between team members, enhanced cleaning, and stringent hygiene standards.