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New Zealand Space Launch to Reach for the Stars with New Electron Rocket -- What You Need to Know

May 22, 2017 10:33 AM EDT
Electron Arrives at Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1
New Zealand is about to debut its entry to commercial space flight with Rocket Lab's Electron rocket. The company was given approval to test the Electron rockets starting this Monday.
(Photo : Rocket Lab/YouTube Screenshot)

New Zealand is venturing into space. The county has never had a space exploration project but is reportedly preparing for the launch of commercial rockets.

The execution of the mission depends on a California-based company called Rocket Lab. Peter Beck, a New Zealander, funds the said company. Rocket Lab was granted permission to conduct three test launches for rocket systems. The company is planning to launch an Electron rocket anytime from Monday, May 22.

"Our talented team has been preparing for years for this opportunity and we want to do our best to get it right," Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said in a statement. "Our number one priority is to gather enough data and experience to prepare for a commercial phase. Only then can we can start delivering on our mission to make space more accessible."

Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab is known for sending small devices into the low Earth orbit. The Electron rocket will be the first for the company and for New Zealand as well. Reports say the company is looking into the possibility of launching commercial Electron rockets later this year and eventually grow and send one rocket a week.

One of the main goals of Rocket Lab is to keep costs low. To do that, they opted in using lightweight and disposable rockets featuring 3D-printed engines. This opened a new space exploration window for New Zealand. Following the potential Electron rocket launch, politicians are now considering space laws and a potential space agency.

"So far, it's only superpowers that have gone into space," Simon Bridges, New Zealand's economic development minister said in a statement. "For us to do it, and be in the first couple of handfuls of countries in the world, is pretty impressive."

Electron Rocket

Rocket Lab's main spacecraft is the Electron rocket. It is a unique rocket only capable of carrying a small payload of 150 kilograms (331 pounds). It is composed of carbon fiber equipped with an electric engine. Each engine launch costs about $5 million.

Other unique aspects of the Rocket Lab Electron rocket include being disposable, very light and using very little fuel.

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