NZ rocket launch a new dawn for space access

Posted on 13 Jun 2017 and read 638 times
NZ rocket launch a new dawn for space accessAn American company, Rocket Lab (www.rocketlabusa.com), has launched a rocket into space from New Zealand — the first from a private launch facility.

The 17m long Electron successfully lifted off from the Mahia Peninsula (on the North Island), and is a significant first step in an emerging market — launching cheap disposable rockets designed to carry small satellites and other payloads. The company plans to start frequent commercial launches later this year.

The launch, which had been pushed into the fourth day of a 10-day window by poor weather conditions, was conducted with no media or spectators permitted, although the company did release a video of the lift-off on its Twitter page.

In a statement released after the launch, chief executive Peter Beck said: “It was a great flight,” but he added that the rocket did not quite reach orbit. We will be investigating why.

“However, reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our programme, deliver our customers’ goods to orbit and make space open for business.”

The test launch — one of three planned — did not carry a payload but was packed with sensor equipment to help engineers understand how the flight performed. Rocket Lab says it will be ‘lofting’ payloads up to 150kg into a 500km-high orbit that will go from pole to pole.

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