Rocket Lab postpones mission studying Venus’ atmosphere

Rocket Lab postpones mission to study Venus’ atmosphere, as reported by Engadget.

So far, the new launch date of the probe is unknown. But last summer it was noted that a backup window for the launch would be available in January 2025. Rocket Lab announced this ambitious mission last year. At the time, the launch of the probe to search for organic molecules in the atmosphere of Venus was planned for May 2023.

Regardless of the timing of the mission, Rocket Lab plans to use the Electron launch vehicle and the Photon spacecraft to send the probe into Venus’ cloud layer at an altitude of 30-37 miles, where the temperature is similar to Earth’s.

Once there, the tiny 40-cm diameter probe will look for organic molecules or other evidence that Venus’ atmosphere could support life.

Venus became a topic of conversation in 2020 after researchers discovered signs of phosphine, a chemical usually produced by living organisms. Despite the controversy of these findings, they have sparked new interest in the atmosphere of Venus as a possible source of life, and the Rocket Lab’s mission is focused on this.

It is also an opportunity for the company to demonstrate its Photon spacecraft, designed to go beyond Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars.

Last year, Rocket Lab successfully launched Photon as part of NASA’s CAPSTONE mission, designed to test the orbital stability of the Lunar Gateway space station, which is still being planned. The spacecraft spent almost six months in orbit and flew at a distance of 1,000 miles from the north pole of the Moon in an almost straight halo orbit.