Aotearoa makes history with rocket launch from Mahia Peninsula

By Leo Horgan

Rocket Lab, an American-New Zealand aerospace company, made history yesterday when its Electron rocket reached space at 16:23 NZST.  

Electron lifted-off at 16:20 NZST from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.  It was the first orbital-class rocket launched from from a private launch site in the world. 

“It has been an incredible day and I’m immensely proud of our talented team,” said Peter Beck, CEO and founder of Rocket Lab. “We’re one of a few companies to ever develop a rocket from scratch and we did it in under four years.

“It was a great flight. We had a great first stage burn, stage separation, second stage ignition and fairing separation. We didn’t quite reach orbit and 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,” says Beck.

Minister for Economic Development Simon Bridges has congratulated the team at Rocket Lab on the successful launch of their first test rocket on the Mahia Peninsula.

“Today’s successful launch is a major milestone in the development of New Zealand’s space industry,” says Mr Bridges.

“It is the first visible sign of a space industry in New Zealand and is an achievement Rocket Lab, and all New Zealanders can be proud of.”

New Zealand is now one of 11 countries currently able to launch satellites into space from their own territory and the first to launch from a fully private orbital launch range.

“The potential benefits for our economy are very significant. These include opportunities to grow in areas related to the space industry such as research, materials development and testing, and to attract other space related companies to set up in New Zealand, and even space tourism,” Mr Bridges says.

Over the coming weeks, Rocket Lab’s engineers in Los Angeles and Auckland, New Zealand will work through the 25,000 data channels that were collected during. The results will inform measures taken to optimize the vehicle.

“We have learnt so much through this test launch and will learn even more in the weeks to come,” says Beck, “We’re committed to making space accessible and this is a phenomenal milestone in that journey.”

Today’s launch was the first of three test flights scheduled for this year. Rocket Lab will target getting to orbit on the second test and look to maximize the payload the rocket can carry.

About Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab’s mission is to remove the barriers to commercial space by providing frequent launch opportunities to low Earth orbit. Since its creation in 2006 by Peter Beck, Rocket Lab has delivered a range of complete rocket systems and technologies for fast and affordable payload deployment.

In addition to New Zealand’s first orbital launch site located on the Māhia Peninsula, the company has operations in both Auckland and Los Angeles.

Rocket Lab is a private company, with major investors including Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Data Collective, Promus Ventures, Lockheed Martin and K1W1.

About Launch Complex 1

Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 is located on the tip of the Māhia Peninsula, between Napier and Gisborne on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. The complex is the first orbital launch site in New Zealand, and the first privately operated orbital launch site globally.

The remote location of Launch Complex 1, particularly its low volume of air and marine traffic, is a key factor in enabling unprecedented access to space. The geographic position of the site means it is possible to access a large range of orbital azimuths – satellites launched from Māhia can be delivered to a wide range of inclinations to provide services across many areas around the world.