COLORADO SPRINGS — The space services company Rocket Lab and startup True Anomaly announced April 11 they have secured contracts to launch a “tactically responsive space” mission for the U.S. Space Force.

Rocket Lab was awarded a $32 million contract and True Anomaly got a $30 million contract for Victus Haze, a demonstration mission intended to test and refine the military’s capabilities for rapidly deploying satellites in response to threats in space. For Victus Haze, an imaging satellite will be launched to inspect an object in orbit. 

Rocket Lab will design, build, launch and operate a rendezvous and proximity operation-capable spacecraft, with a delivery target date in 2025. Once the exercise begins, Rocket Lab will be given notice to launch the spacecraft into a target orbit on the company’s Electron rocket.

On orbit, the spacecraft will conduct maneuvers with True Anomaly’s Jackal spacecraft, to be launched by a yet-to-be announced rocket company.

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket

Rapid launch and deployment of satellites has emerged as a priority for military space operations. Victus Haze is part of the Space Force’s broader push to develop more agile space systems that can be sent to orbit and start operations quickly, similar to the Victus Nox mission that launched in September on a Firefly rocket. 

Under the contract, True Anomaly will build a Jackal rendezvous and proximity operation-capable spacecraft, and provide a command and control center.

True Anomaly, based in Centennial, Colorado, launched its first two Jackal spacecraft March 4 on the Transporter-10 SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare mission. A few days after launch, True Anomaly said it confirmed the location of both vehicles and that their solar arrays are deployed but the mission was not successful. “The first flight test has progressed as far as possible and we do not anticipate meeting the remainder of the test objectives, including on-orbit rendezvous and proximity operation demonstrations,” the company said.

The Victus Haze project is funded by the Defense Innovation Unit, the Space Systems Command’s Space Safari Program Office and SpaceWERX, the Space Force’s innovation arm.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...