WASHINGTON — Rocket Lab launched a mission for the National Reconnaissance Office from Virginia March 21, the company’s second launch in as many weeks.

The Electron lifted off from Launch Complex 2 at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia, at 3:25 a.m. Eastern. The launch took place at the end of a 45-minute window after controllers called a hold about four and a half minutes before liftoff for what the company described as an “out-of-family” data issue.

The launch, on a mission designated NROL-123 by the NRO, carried a classified payload. In a statement confirming the success of the launch about an hour after liftoff, the NRO suggested the mission was conducting technology demonstrations of some kind for the agency.

“This launch, which is putting research missions into space, exemplifies the NRO’s commitment to building partnerships with private industry and academia,” said Chris Scolese, director of the NRO, in a statement. “The knowledge gained from this research will advance innovation and enable the development of critical new technology.”

The launch was the fifth and last mission under a Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) contract between NRO and Rocket Lab, dating back to 2020. “The RASR contract process is an innovative, forward-leaning approach from the NRO that has allowed the agency to capitalize on the speed and responsiveness of commercial launch services and we’re thrilled to make it possible with Electron,” Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, said in a company statement.

The NRO’s Office of Space Launch is looking for new ideas for launching missions. It recently released a Broad Area Announcement seeking proposals “to advance launch technology in strategic areas of interest that range from ground operations to on-orbit services.” Those proposals are due by April 5.

The NROL-123 launch was the fourth this year for Rocket Lab and the second in a little more than a week. Another Electron launched a radar imaging satellite for Japanese company Synspective March 12 from New Zealand.

The launch was also the fourth from Launch Complex (LC) 2, which Rocket Lab opened in early 2023 as its first U.S. launch site. Those previous launches included two Electron missions to deploy satellites in early 2023 and one of a suborbital variant of Electron called HASTE, designed for hypersonics research and related missions, in June 2023.

Rocket Lab is currently building Launch Complex 3 for its Neutron rocket adjacent to LC-2. The company previous said it is working to have the first Neutron ready for launch from that facility as soon as the end of this year.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...