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Rocket Lab follows footsteps of SpaceX with new NASA launch pad

The smaller space startup will set up shop at NASA's Wallops Island facility on the Virginia coastline.

Rocket Lab's Electron rocket.
Rocket Lab

As Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos-led Blue Origin move toward powerful rockets that could take us to the moon and Mars, another American space startup has been steadily working on launching smaller payloads that don't require big boosters. 

On Wednesday, California-based Rocket Lab said it will build its first launch pad on American soil at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The company already has a private launch complex located in New Zealand, where it has been conducting test launches of its Electron rocket over the past few years.

"Launching from a second pad builds on Rocket Lab's ability to offer the small satellite industry unmatched schedule and launch location flexibility," Rocket Lab CEO and founder and CEO Peter Beck said in a release.

Though Rocket Lab isn't a direct competitor of SpaceX, it hopes to replicate some of that company's successes. SpaceX  operates many of its missions from a NASA facility, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and aims to offer frequent launches at lower costs. The SpaceX model aims to drive down costs by recycling rockets.

Rocket Lab hopes to trim price tags by using 3D printing, lightweight composite materials and novel electric fuel pumps. 

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In addition to the construction of the new pad in Virginia, the company also maintains agreements with Cape Canaveral in Florida and Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska for launches from those facilities, if needed. 

Rocket Lab's first fully commercial launch, dubbed "It's Business Time," has been delayed due to technical issues, but is currently set to take place in November from the New Zealand launch site. 

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