Rocket Lab Reports Launch Into Space From New Zealand

  • ‘Made it to space,’ company tweets, ‘team delighted’
  • Aims for cheap satellite launch from remote South Pacific

Rocket Lab said it has successfully test-launched a rocket into space from a remote area of New Zealand’s North Island.

“Made it to space. Team delighted. More to follow!” the U.S. company, founded by New Zealander Peter Beck, tweeted at 4:29 p.m. New Zealand time Thursday. It is the first test of the company’s Electron Rocket from New Zealand, a country of just 4.7 million people deep in the South Pacific.

Rocket Lab aims to build a New Zealand base from which to launch small satellites into low orbit. The country is considered a prime location because rockets originating deep in the Southern Hemisphere can reach a wide range of Earth orbits.

The goal is to increase the pace and affordability of sending up imaging and communication gear used for services including weather monitoring, natural disaster management and crop surveillance. The company said in 2015 that it should be able to offer a launch service for less than $5 million.

“Today’s successful launch is a major milestone in the development of New Zealand’s space industry,” Simon Bridges, Minister for Economic Development, said in a statement. “It is the first visible sign of a space industry in New Zealand and is an achievement Rocket Lab, and all New Zealanders can be proud of.”

Bridges said New Zealand is now one of 11 countries currently able to launch satellites into space from their own territory and the first to launch from a fully private orbital launch range, adding “the potential benefits for our economy are very significant.”

3D-Printed Engines

With a height of 17 meters and a diameter of 1.2 meters, and 3D-printed engines, the Electron Rocket is capable of carrying a maximum payload of 225 kilograms, according to Rocket Lab, whose investors include Lockheed Martin Corp.

Today’s test rocket did not make it into orbit, the National Business Review reported, citing Rocket Lab.

When announcing the launch window this month, Rocket Lab said it was a significant milestone for the company “and the space industry globally.”

The launch was delayed several days due to adverse weather conditions.

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