Rocket Lab sets launch­date

Central Leader - - LIFESTYLE & LEISURE - ANUJA NADKARNI

Rocket Lab is plan­ning the first test­launch of its Elec­tron rocket on May 22 from its Mahia Penin­sula launch pad in Hawkes Bay.

The launch will be a world-first at­tempt to send a rocket into or­bit from a pri­vate launch pad.

Rocket Lab chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Beck said the at­tempt would aim to col­lect data for fu­ture test and com­mer­cial launches.

‘‘Our num­ber one pri­or­ity is to gather enough data and ex­pe­ri­ence to pre­pare for a com­mer­cial phase. Only then can we can start de­liv­er­ing on our mis­sion to make space more ac­ces­si­ble,’’ Beck said.

The test launch is the first of three planned ahead of the first com­mer­cial launch.

Elec­tron, de­vel­oped by the Amer­i­canNew Zealand aero­space com­pany, is an en­tirely made of car­bon-com­pos­ite that uses a 3D printed en­gine for its main propul­sion sys­tem.

It has been de­signed to carry pay­loads, such as small satel­lites, to a low or­bit.

The rocket will al­low con­stel­la­tions of small satel­lites to pro­vide ser­vices like cheaper in­ter­net from space and en­vi­ron­men­tal mon­i­tor­ing, nat­u­ral dis­as­ter pre­dic­tion and search and res­cue ser­vices.

The test launch at­tempt would will pro­ceed if con­di­tions are ideal for launch, Becket said.

If the launch is a suc­cess the rocket will reach an el­lip­ti­cal or­bit, vary­ing be­tween 300 kilo­me­tres and 500km above earth.

As part of the launch at­tempt, Mahia East Coast Road will be closed to the gen­eral pub­lic from 9am to 8pm on May 22.

State-owned Air­ways signed an agree­ment last year to pro­vide air traf­fic ser­vices for Rocket Lab’s test and com­mer­cial rocket launches.

The two or­gan­i­sa­tions had worked to­gether for 18 months to de­velop a ‘‘spe­cial use airspace’’ which min­imised im­pact on oth­ers, but still al­lowed Rocket Labs what it wanted to do.

Rocket Lab planned to do up to 100 launches into space a year.

Rocket Lab’s ma­jor in­vestors in­clude Khosla Ven­tures, Sir Stephen Tin­dall’s K1W1 in­vest­ment fund, Besse­mer Ven­ture Part­ners and Lock­heed Martin, which de­signs and man­u­fac­tures mis­siles and fighter jets for the US mil­i­tary.

Its cus­tomers in­clude NASA, Spire, Moon Ex­press and Planet.

CHRIS SKEL­TON/FAIRFAX NZ

Rocket Lab chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Beck says the com­pany plans three test launches its Elec­tron rocket be­fore car­ry­ing its first com­mer­cial load into space.

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