Rocket Lab's third launch for the year will carry two US Special Operations Command (Socom) "Prometheus" satellites.

The launch window opens next Thursday.

What is Socom? The US Department says, "The command was formed after the failure of Operation Eagle Claw, a mission to rescue the American hostages in Tehran, Iran, in April 1980. Eight American special operations personnel died in the effort. A study faulted a lack of cooperation among the forces. This led to the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1987 and on, April 16, 1987, the establishment of Socom.

"The military services man, train and equip their own special operations forces, but when they are used together, they come under the purview of Socom."


Socom's website details everything from its involvement in the1993 "Black Hawk Down" incident in Somalia and says its "Special operators were among the first US forces in Afghanistan after 9/11."

Talking to the Herald in April, Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said, "The defence sector is very dual-use," Beck counters.

"GPS is the best example. It's run, owned and operated and maintained by the US Air Force but we all use it to get to the supermarket."

And emphasised that the three satellites Rocket Lab launched for the US Air Force were "non-operational payloads, they're R&D research payloads".

Similarly, Socom's Prometheus satellites are billed as research into cubesat constellations, or how a fleet of micro-satellites can work in tandem.

The "Make it Rain" mission will also carry birds for US satellite imaging company BlackSky and The Melbourne Space Program - an Australian educational outfit borne out of the Melbourne School of Engineering. The Space Program's cubesat was student-built from scratch, and will be used as a technology test to hone future designs.

The payload was assembled by US company Spaceflight, which promises clients and easy and affordable rideshare into space - making it an Uber for satellites, if you will.

The launch window will open on June 27, with take-off from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula.


Why "Make it rain?".

A Rocket Lab spokeswoman explains, "The mission's name is a nod to the high volume of rainfall in Seattle, where Spaceflight is headquartered, as well as in New Zealand where Launch Complex 1 is located."

The launch will be livestreamed, and the Wairoa District Council will again open up a viewing area for the public. Details of the location are at www. - though travellers should bear in mind Rocket Lab's advice that mulltiple delays over several days are possible during the launch window period.