Rocket Lab’s Mahia launch suc­cess­ful

Central Leader - - WHAT’S ON - HAMISH MCNICOL

Rocket Lab’s world-first test launch has suc­cess­fully blasted off, mak­ing New Zealand the 11th coun­try to launch into space.

But the com­pany will be in­ves­ti­gat­ing why the rocket failed to reach or­bit.

The com­pany, in March val­ued at more than US$1 bil­lion (NZ$1.42b), has this week been at­tempt­ing the first test-launch of its Elec­tron rocket.

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

Rocket Lab’s test launch was a world-first at­tempt to send a rocket into or­bit from a pri­vate launch pad.

Rocket Lab chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Beck said Elec­tron launched at 4:20pm, mak­ing it one of just a few com­pa­nies to de­velop a rocket from scratch.

He said it was a great flight but the rocket did not quite reach or­bit.

‘‘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 pro­gramme, de­liver our cus­tomers to or­bit and make space open for busi­ness.’’

The com­pany’s engi­neers in Los Angeles and Auck­land would now look at more than 25,000 data chan­nels col­lected be­fore op­ti­mis­ing the ve­hi­cle.

It planned to do three test launches ahead of its first com­mer­cial launch.

Beck said the com­pany had learned so much and would learn more over the com­ing weeks.

‘‘We’re com­mit­ted to mak­ing space ac­ces­si­ble and this is a phe­nom­e­nal mile­stone in that jour­ney.

‘‘It’s been an in­cred­i­ble day and I’m im­mensely proud of our tal­ented team.’’

A re­port from Sapere Re­search Group in June found Rocket Lab’s es­tab­lish­ment of a rocket launch in­dus­try in New Zealand would con­trib­ute be­tween $600m and $1.55b to the econ­omy over the next 20 years.

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

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