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New Zealand Just Sent a 3D-Printed Rocket to Space

May 29, 2017 11:55 AM EDT
Rocket Lab
This Rocket Lab 3D-printed rocket takes off from New Zealand for the first time ever.
(Photo : Rocket Lab/YouTube)

You really can use 3D printing for anything. New Zealand aimed higher - literally and figuratively - by developing and launching a 3D-printed battery-powered space rocket called Electron from the isolated Mahia Peninsula.

According to a report from The Guardian, Silicon Valley-funded Rocket Lab launched the very first flight of the low-cost rocket that's being touted as a breakthrough in solving the financial and logistical barriers that often keeps many from space.

Rocket Lab revealed that their technology is a way to offer companies more chances to get satellites up in space without it causing them an arm and a leg, so to speak.

"Our focus with the Electron has been to develop a reliable launch vehicle that can be manufactured in high volumes," Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck told The Guardian. "Our ultimate goal is to make space accessible by providing an unprecedented frequency of launch opportunities."

The achievement is also a step in making New Zealand a surprising low-cost space hub. Air and sea transportation need to be re-routed every time a rocket is launched, and the country's relatively empty skies - at least compared to the United States - make it an ideal site. New Zealand is also a good spot to kick off satellites on its way to a north-to-south orbit.

The launch has been four years in the making, approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration who monitored the flight. Two more tests are slated before commercial operations begin near the end of 2017.

"We're committed to making space accessible and this is a phenomenal milestone in that journey," Beck said in an official statement. "The applications doing this will open up are endless. Known applications include improved weather reporting, Internet from space, natural disaster prediction, up-to-date maritime data as well as search and rescue services."

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