Test rocket launched into space from New Zealand pad

United States aerospace company Rocket Lab has conducted a test launch of a rocket from Mahia Peninsula in Hawke's Bay today.

After three days of postponements caused by adverse weather, the rocket launched on Thursday from its Mahia Peninsula base in Hawke's Bay.

When announcing the launch window this month, Rocket Lab said it was a significant milestone for the company "and the space industry globally". "Team delighted. More to follow!" the US company, founded by New Zealander Peter Beck, tweeted at 4:29 p.m.

The test launch, one of three planned, did not carry any actual cargo, but Rocket Lab says eventually the Electron rocket will carry 150kg (331lbs) into orbit.

The company's launch range, which was licensed to launch every 72 hours for the next 30 years, would mean the country would soon become the nation with the highest frequency of space launches anywhere in the world. It sees an emerging market in delivering lots of small devices into low Earth orbit.

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.

Politicians are rushing through new space laws and the government has set up a boutique space agency, which employs 10 people.

The $5 million target price for an Electron orbital launch compares favorably with the prices quoted by other launch providers, even SpaceX, as long as you don't need to launch more than 500 pounds (225 kilograms). It also uses the world's first 3D printed engine, known as the Rutherford. "For us to do it, and be in the first couple of handfuls of countries in the world, is pretty impressive".

Rocket Lab was founded by Beck and is privately held.

  • Zachary Reyes