Shat­ner lands at Rocket Lab

Waikato Times - - Business - Anuja Nad­karni

Space-launch firm Rocket Lab has opened a fancy new rocket fac­tory in Auck­land de­signed to build a new Elec­tron rocket ev­ery week.

The 7500-square-me­tre masspro­duc­tion site in Mount Welling­ton will add to Rocket Lab’s ex­ist­ing pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity and head­quar­ters in Cal­i­for­nia.

Ac­tor Wil­liam Shat­ner – best known for his role as Cap­tain Kirk in the Star Trek se­ries, and also as Denny Crane in Bos­ton Le­gal – of­fi­cially opened the fac­tory yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

Rocket Lab chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Beck said the com­pany had ex­panded its global pro­duc­tion, to launch an Elec­tron rocket to or­bit ev­ery week by 2020.

‘‘Ev­ery de­tail of the Rocket Lab launch sys­tem has been de­signed to pro­vide small satel­lites with rapid and re­li­able ac­cess to space.’’

The launch­ing ser­vice will al­low satel­lites to be trans­ported, used for apps such as Uber or Google Maps.

Elec­tron launch ve­hi­cles will un­dergo fi­nal assem­bly in Mount Welling­ton, where all parts will go through a stream­lined process for test­ing and in­te­gra­tion into the rocket be­fore launch. Elec­tron is a two-stage rocket ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing pay­loads of 150 kilo­grams.

Rocket Lab op­er­ates the world’s only pri­vate or­bital launch site, in Ma¯hia Penin­sula near Gis­borne. The site is li­censed to launch up to 120 times per year.

All Elec­tron launches, in­clud­ing an up­com­ing launch in Novem­ber, will be com­manded from the mis­sion con­trol in Auck­land. Mount Welling­ton will also con­trol Rocket Lab’s United States launch site, which is un­der­go­ing fi­nal se­lec­tion.

Rocket Lab will have about 200 staff mem­bers at the fac­tory and is hir­ing more staff to sup­port its plans of monthly launches in 2019, scal­ing to weekly launches by the end of 2020.

In Jan­uary Rocket Lab suc­cess­fully reached or­bit but months later caught flak for launch­ing its Hu­man­ity Star, which re­sem­bled a disco ball and drew crit­i­cism re­gard­ing space pol­lu­tion and the launch’s non-re­search pur­pose. Af­ter just two months in space, the Hu­man­ity Star fell back to Earth and burnt up in the planet’s at­mos­phere.

GETTY IMAGES

Rocket Lab chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Beck, left, and ac­tor Wil­liam Shat­ner of­fi­cially opened the new fac­tory in Mt Welling­ton yes­ter­day.

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