News of Zealand

New Zealand’s Rocket Lab Launches NASA Satellites into Space

"We have lift-off."

by Zoe Madden-Smith
17 December 2018, 1:11am

The launch of Electron. Image by Trevor Mahlmann

This article originally appeared on VICE New Zealand

A New Zealand company took NASA to space on Sunday when it launched a rocket into orbit carrying 13 research satellites for the US space giant. This mission is Rocket Lab's second commercial flight, but the first one in partnership with US space agency NASA.

"We have lift-off," NASA and Rocket Lab announced on Twitter. After being delayed by the thunderstorms that ripped through the country last week, the 17-metre Electron rocket eventually launched from the Hawke’s Bay’s Mahia Peninsula facility at 8PM. The Kiwi launchpad is the world’s first privately owned orbital launch site.

A company spokeswoman said the mission was “really significant” for both Rocket Lab and NASA, because normally satellites hitch rides on much larger launches. "That means they are prone to delays and can't necessarily go to the exact orbits that they want to. So, this marks a significant time for the team here at Rocket Lab to be able to put it into orbit for NASA."

Aucklander Peter Beck founded Rocket Lab in 2006 to give smaller satellites access to orbit. “Rapid and reliable launch for small satellites is here. #TheWaitIsOver” the space start-up tweeted last night. The company says they will be “really ramping up” their operations and have set a target of 16 launches for 2019. They are also building a second launch pad at a NASA facility in the United States, but the company says its Kiwi pad will always be their “high-frequency, high volume site”.