Asia Minute: New Zealand’s Big Week in Space

May 26, 2017

Earth from the ISS
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The business of commercial space launches took another step forward this week. A test flight took off involving a new kind of rocket, an American company, and a first for New Zealand. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

New Zealand has now joined the ranks of ten other countries with the potential to launch cargo into space.

A company named Rocket Lab used a private launch facility on the country’s North Island to send a battery-powered carbon fiber rocket aloft…one that was produced using a 3-D printer.

The rocket made it to space, but failed in its attempt to make it into orbit.

Even so, company founder Peter Beck called the operation a success. Continuing progress toward a lower-cost model for space launches.

About 30 companies and government agencies are now working on various options to put satellites into orbit.

The rocket launched this week is smaller than most. For example, it’s less than a quarter of the size of the reusable Falcon Rocket produced by SpaceX.

The launch also marks a step for New Zealand—which has set up a space agency and hopes to compete as a potential hub for future space launches.

The country has less flight traffic than other locations, and provides an entry trajectory over open water as well as relatively easy access to a north-south orbit around the earth.

As for Rocket Lab, the company plans two more test flights before its first commercial launch—which may take place before the end of the year.