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