New Zealand, which houses 4.5 million people and 70 million sheep, might as well welcome a new set of family members to settle on its lands - orbital rockets.
Or at least stay for a while and take off.
Rocket Lab aims to finish first in the world of private space race, as it announced July 1 it will be building a launch site for orbital rockets in New Zealand. The company has its eyes set on the Canterbury region of New Zealand's South Island, where it plans to operate the launch site in Kaitorete Spit. Here, it will be launching the Rocket Lab's Electron launch vehicle, which is designed to send small satellites to Low Earth Orbit.
In 2007, the company was started in New Zealand and then later moved to the US in 2010, winning a contract from the Operationally Responsive Space Office.
According to Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab, location and cost are two of the things that made New Zealand fit for their launch site. The launch area is just right for takeoff, looking at the Earth's angle on which it is situated; it is also more inexpensive. Beck noted that it is expensive to launch state-owned space races. It would be much cheaper in New Zealand.
"You pretty much have to write a cheque for a billion dollars. What would happen if you removed a zero off the end of that? It opens the market up to more interesting ventures," added Beck.
Rocket Lab's goal is to be able to operate 100 launches a year, which will each cost no more than $5 million. The firm's CEO said that the launches will be aligned with a number of different free orbits. This should reduce the changes of delays. He stressed that New Zealand will allow them to reach the orbital angles they need and more importantly, to achieve the kind of launch frequencies Rocket Lab needs to service the market.
In the company's announcement of building and operating a launch site in New Zealand, Beck further noted that currently, the lead-times for launches of satellites are years. Small companies are unable to reach timeframes that should keep them competitive in the business. The operational site in New Zealand will open more doors to making space commercially accessible.