Space in­dus­try ben­e­fits could soar for NZ econ­omy

Emerg­ing sec­tor could earn as much as ki­wifruit and wine, says Si­mon Bridges

Weekend Herald - - NEWS - Grant Bradley avi­a­tion grant. bradley@ nzher­ald. co. nz

New Zealand’s space in­dus­try could earn as much as the wine in­dus­try or the ki­wifruit sec­tor if it gets off the ground, says Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Si­mon Bridges.

Rocket Lab i s poised for a giant leap next week with the start of a win­dow for test launches, build­ing up to a com­mer­cial cam­paign to de­liver small satel­lites to low Earth or­bit.

While the Rocket Lab pro­gramme would be high risk in its early stages, Bridges said if suc­cess­ful, it would rep­re­sent a ma­jor tech­no­log­i­cal mile­stone for the coun­try.

“These are an in­cred­i­bly ex­cit­ing set of op­por­tu­ni­ties. This has the abil­ity to be an­other ki­wifruit sec­tor or wine in­dus­try but in a much quicker time­frame than those more tra­di­tional sec­tors take to grow.”

Last year the ki­wifruit sec­tor was worth close to $ 2 bil­lion and the wine in­dus­try $ 1.6b.

Bridges said the coun­try needed to aspire to be seen as sup­port­ing ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy.

Rocket Lab had a high pro­file not only in New Zealand but around the world and it had the po­ten­tial to change the perception of this coun­try.

“So much of the world sees us as pretty scenery and farm­ing — we’re def­i­nitely those things and we should be proud — but we’re in­creas­ingly a coun­try of smart en­trepreneurs and in­no­va­tors and this has the po­ten­tial to ad­ver­tise what is hap­pen­ing in our econ­omy to the world.”

Rocket Lab says it is con­fi­dent of a suc­cess­ful test in a 10- day win­dow from Mon­day but has been at pains to stress it is just the start of a launch pro­gramme.

It is not livestream­ing the launch as i s com­mon over­seas and has re­stricted ac­cess to the pad at the tip of the Mahia Penin­sula.

It wants to build up to a com­mer­cial oper­a­tion of high- fre­quency launches at a much lower price than com­pa­nies and state agen­cies over­seas.

Bridges said there were “high risks of fail­ure” around the first launch.

“But I think what is for sure is that [ it] will go on to launch suc­cess­fully com­mer­cially over a pe­riod of time and that will put us as one of a hand­ful of coun­tries that have been into space, which is re­mark­able at the bot­tom of the world.”

The New Zealand tech sec­tor was worth about $ 16b a year and a space in­dus­try would open up eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing ma­te­ri­als de­vel­op­ment such as car­bon com­pos­ites, which the coun­try was al­ready lev­er­ag­ing off for yachting, and weather re­search.

There was also po­ten­tial for space tourism.

Wairoa Dis­trict Coun­cil has had sup­port from the Min­istry of Busi­ness In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment to de­velop a view­ing area at Nuhaka, about 20km from the launch site.

“We are a very proud dis­trict and se­cur­ing Rocket Lab has cer­tainly se­cured our fu­ture as a tourism des­ti­na­tion. It has put us on the in­ter­na­tional map and gives our com­mu­nity that point of dif­fer­ence,” said mayor Craig Lit­tle.

The cov­er­age the town had got was “a lot more ex­cit­ing that what was usu­ally writ­ten about Wairoa”.

Last year the United States­based Space Foun­da­tion found the space econ­omy was worth close to $ 400b a year.

Rocket Lab has re­ceived about $ 25 mil­lion in gov­ern­ment fund­ing dur­ing the past decade but is mainly funded by ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists in the US and in­ter­na­tional aero­space com­pa­nies.

Rocket Lab will next week start test launches at its Mahia Penin­sula pad.

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