NASA’s new security system enables Rocket Lab’s launch from Wallops


NASA's new safety system makes it possible to launch the Wallops rocket lab

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket lifts off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on January 24, 2023, at 6 p.m. EDT. The mission, titled “Virginia is a Launch Lover,” is Rocket Lab’s first US commercial electron launch. Credit: NASA/Daniel Johnson

NASA’s revolutionary flight safety system enabled a new era of space transportation with the successful flight of the US Rocket Lab Electron rocket on January 24, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.


The mission, the first electronic launch from the United States, was made possible by NASA’s work developing the NASA Autonomous Flight Termination Unit (NAFTU), a critical part of the flight. safety technology required for this task. Tuesday’s launch was the first-ever flight of the NAFTU flight safety system.

With NASA providing command and control of the Wallops launch range, Electron launched at 6 p.m. EDT, Jan. 24, from the company’s Launch Complex 2 inside Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on NASA’s Wallops Island.

said David L. “We are proud to make future US Rocket Lab Electron missile launches possible with our game-changing flight safety technology.”

While other private autonomous flight termination systems are in use today, NAFTU is different in that it is designed to be used by any launch provider at all launch ranges in the United States to ensure Public Safety during launches. To date, 18 companies have requested the NAFTU program through NASA’s technology transfer process. Rocket Lab was among the first applicants for the program, making it possible to launch it from Wallops.

NASA's new safety system makes it possible to launch the Wallops rocket lab

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket lifts off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on January 24, 2023, at 6 p.m. EDT. The mission, titled “Virginia is a Launch Lover,” is Rocket Lab’s first US commercial electron launch. Credit: NASA/Patrick Black

Ensuring public safety is the primary mandate of any firing range. Launching flights without automated flight safety systems that rely on field safety officers to monitor all phases of flight Rocket Flight using terrestrial tracking and telemetry assets. If the missile goes off course, range safety officers send orders to end the flight. Launch safety plans must compensate for human reaction time.

By contrast, an automated flight safety system, such as NAFTU, is a self-contained, rocket-mounted autonomous flight termination system for autonomously making real-time flight termination decisions. This real-time decision-making ability offers many benefits, such as wider launch windows and smaller safety lanes for boats and aircraft. In addition, because the unit is self-contained and mounted on the missile, there is a significant reduction in the need for ground-based tracking and telemetry systems, which reduces overall operating and maintenance costs. These savings are, in turn, passed on to service providers.

“The pace of launches is increasing across all launch ranges in our country, while the cost of maintaining the ground assets required for launch is increasing,” Pearce said. Many of these issues are mitigated by the advantages of autonomy airline Security systems such as NAFTU. ”

Wallops, in collaboration with NASA Headquarters, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the US Air Force and Space Forces, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration, began developing NAFTU in 2020, when the program became fully funded. The module’s interim certification was awarded to Rocket Lab’s first US Electron mission and full certification is expected by January 31, 2023.

the quote: New NASA Safety Enables Rocket Lab Launch from Wallops (2023, January 25), retrieved January 25, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-01-nasa-safety-enables-rocket- lab. html

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