Rocket Lab launches a Japanese satellite from the space company’s complex in New Zealand


In this image released by Rocket Lab, an electron rocket on the launch pad at the Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. California-based Rocket Lab plans to launch a Japanese satellite TSUKUYOMI-I, into orbit on behalf of a Japanese start-up Institute for Q-shu Pioneers of Space Inc., Friday, Dec. 15, 2023. (Rocket Lab via AP)Rocket Lab/AP

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — California-based Rocket Lab, which specializes in putting small satellites into orbit, launched a Japanese satellite on Friday from the space company’s complex on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula.

The mission, named “The Moon God Awakens,” was initially scheduled for Wednesday but was postponed due to forecast strong winds. The Electron rocket launched at 5:06 p.m. local time (0406 GMT).

The rocket is carrying a TSUKUYOMI-I satellite into orbit on behalf of Japanese start-up Institute for Q-shu Pioneers of Space Inc.


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Rocket Lab is to release a statement on the mission’s progress after the satellite reaches its orbit around an hour after takeoff.

The synthetic-aperture radar satellite, named after a Japanese god of the moon, will collect images of the Earth, Rocket Lab said.

The mission is Rocket Lab’s 10th for 2023, exceeding its annual record of nine set in 2022.

It is the 42nd Electron launch from Mahia or from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Wallops Island, Virginia, since 2017. Rocket Lab was founded in New Zealand in 2006.