G’day mates — exciting news!

Fellow launch photographer, Brady Kenniston and I are headed to New Zealand this weekend to document Rocket Lab’s NASA ElaNa-19 mission!

Brady and I have traveled to launches in both California and Florida before, but this will be both of our first time traveling to New Zealand!

On-site for SpaceX’s Iridium-7 launch from Vandenberg AFB in July 2018. || Photo by Pauline Acalin/Teslarati

The launch is named: “This One’s For Pickering“, in honor of New Zealand-born scientist and former Director of NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Sir William Pickering. For 22 years, Sir William headed JPL and led the team that developed the first US satellite, Explorer I, launched in 1958.

Here’s the mission patch:

Photo: Rocket Lab

The launch window opens December 13th, 2018 and closes the 21st with daily opportunities for launch between 04:00 and 08:00 UTC / 5:00pm – 9:00pm NZST.

This mission will be Rocket Lab’s first launch for NASA as part of the Venture Class Launch Services program (VCLS) and will carry 10 cube sats to low earth orbit.

VCLS is a forward-leaning program initiated by NASA to enable smaller satellites to get to orbit instead of waiting for space on larger launchers.

From Rocket Lab:

“VCLS contracts constitute the smallest class of launch services used by NASA and have been created to foster commercial launch services dedicated to transporting smaller payloads to orbit. The VCLS contract is a direct response from NASA to the small satellite industry’s changing needs for rapid and repeatable access to orbit.”

Super excited to be traveling to NZ for the first time, and for an incredible opportunity like this!

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Brady and I will be flying on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to and from Auckland; riding in a carbon fiber composite plane to see a carbon fiber composite rocket. Makes perfect sense — why fly anything else?

Like the piece I wrote for Ars Technica about Falcon Heavy’s inaugural launch, I again plan to do a post-launch story about my experiences for Ars.

Stay tuned for some awesome photography!

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