iQPS and Rocket Lab team up for a dedicated satellite launch

Japan's iQPS will now launch its QPS-SAR-5 synthetic aperture radar satellite aboard an Electron rocket in September.
Chris Young
A previous Rocket Lab Electron launch.
A previous Rocket Lab Electron launch.

Rocket Lab 

Rocket Lab announced it will lift a constellation of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging satellites for Japanese company Q-shu Pioneers of Space (iQPS).

In a press statement, the California and New Zealand-based firm explained that it has signed a contract for a dedicated launch of iQPS's QPS-SAR-5 satellite on an Electron rocket.

Japan's iQPS had originally intended to launch its satellites aboard a Virgin Orbit rocket before the company folded due to bankruptcy.

Rocket Lab's new mission: "The Moon God Awakens"

The new Rocket Lab mission will be called "The Moon God Awakens" and it is scheduled for September from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand.

iQPS announced a launch contract with Virgin Orbit back in May 2022, and its launch was behind schedule in April when Virgin Orbit filed for bankruptcy before ceasing operations and selling off its assets.

In the Rocket Lab statement, CEO Peter Beck refers to the fact that iQPS was seeking a quick turnaround time on its mission: "This is exactly the kind of mission Electron was designed for and has delivered on time and time again: a customer urgently seeking dedicated launch to a unique orbit on a rapid timeline," he explained.

"iQPS's SAR technology can play a vital role in disaster prevention, marine monitoring, infrastructure management, agriculture, and more." Beck continued. "The sooner their spacecraft is in orbit, the faster those capabilities can be delivered, so we’re grateful for the opportunity to make iQPS’ mission possible with a dependable launch service."

iQPS CEO Shunsuke Onishi added, "we highly appreciate Rocket Lab and our team for all their efforts in arranging this new launch contract as it is very meaningful for us to quickly deploy the satellites into orbit."

iQPS aims to eventually launch a 36-satellite constellation that has the capacity to produce SAR imagery at resolutions sharper than 50 centimeters.

In October 2022, iQPS lost two satellites QPS-SAR-3 and -4, when the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Epsilon rocket failed on its sixth launch.

In June this year, the QPS-SAR-6 satellite was successfully launched into orbit by SpaceX's Transporter-8 rideshare mission.

Rocket Lab's next-gen Neutron rocket to meet increased demand

Other business has come Rocket Lab's way following Virgin Orbit's bankruptcy announcement, including a launch contract with Canadian firm NorthStar Earth and Space to launch four space situational awareness satellites. NorthStar Earth and Space had also originally held a contract with Virgin Orbit.

In 2021, Rocket Lab went public and also announced its next-generation rocket, called Neutron.

The company's Chief Financial Officer Adam Spice recently stated that Neutron will "compete directly" with SpaceX's Falcon 9 and that it is still on track for its first launch next year.

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