Putting some zeal into New Zealand – Rocket Lab’s Electron booster lifts off on maiden flight.
Credit: Rocket Lab

The private Rocket Lab orbital-class booster was successfully launched from the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.

While the Electron rocket’s maiden flight was heralded by the group, the vehicle did not reach orbit.

Peter Beck, CEO and founder of Rocket Lab, said in a press statement: “It was a great flight. We had a great first stage burn, stage separation, second-stage ignition and fairing separation. We didn’t quite reach orbit and we’ll be investigating why, however reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our program, deliver our customers to orbit and make space open for business.”

Next tests

The launch was the first of three test flights scheduled for this year.

Rocket Lab’s New Zealand launch site.
Credit: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab will target getting to orbit on the second test and look to maximize the payload the rocket can carry.

According to the private group, at full production, Rocket Lab expects to launch more than 50 times a year, and is regulated to launch up to 120 times a year.

Rocket Lab’s commercial phase will see Electron fly already-signed customers including NASA, Spire, Planet, Moon Express and Spaceflight.

Space economy

According to the newly created New Zealand Space Agency: “New Zealand’s unique location and conditions make it an attractive choice for an increasing amount of space activity.”

Credit: Mark Gee

The site explains that one of the world’s first private orbital launch ranges is sited on our North Island’s east coast ready for frequent rocket launches.

“High altitude balloons are lifting off from the South Island, and a new research institute plans to develop satellite data products to drive regional economic growth,” the site adds.

“We have scientists involved in international astronomy teams searching for planets orbiting distant stars, and companies and students building satellites. We have engineers and technologists working in space-related activities such as in advanced materials and rocketry. Our space economy is taking off!”

Visible sign

In a post-launch statement, the rocket launch is viewed as a huge step for New Zealand’s space industry by the country’s Minister for Economic Development, Simon Bridges.

“Today’s successful launch is a major milestone in the development of New Zealand’s space industry,” Bridges said in a press 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.”

The statement also notes that 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.

Space tourism

“The potential benefits for our economy are very significant. These include opportunities to grow in areas related to the space industry such as research, materials development and testing, and to attract other space related companies to set up in New Zealand, and even space tourism,” Bridges said. “The Government is supportive of any industry that grows our economy through high-tech, innovative highly skilled activities.”

A range of government agencies, led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, is also ensuring launch activities are safe and secure.

“We hope the launch will encourage others to come to New Zealand and enjoy the same attractive features that Rocket Lab is taking advantage of, including good access to orbits, clear skies, a skilled workforce and an innovation friendly environment,” Bridges concluded

Go to this Electron launch video:

https://twitter.com/RocketLabUSA/status/867612663764762624

For more information on Rocket Lab, go to:

https://www.rocketlabusa.com/

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