New Zealand will soon be a major centre for putting satellites into orbit after Rocket Labs announced plans to build a launch pad.
The US based company, which also has a subsidiary in New Zealand, aims to remove barriers to commercial space through frequent and cost-efficient launches for the small satellite market.
The company announced plans to build the launch site on Kaitorete Spit in the Canterbury region near Christchurch to launch Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle which is designed to deliver small satellites to Low Earth Orbit.
According to Rocket Lab CEO, Peter Beck, New Zealand was chosen for its “technical, logistical and economic advantages” having previously been used for suborbital flights by NASA.
“New Zealand’s access to high inclination and sun-synchronous orbits are ideal for small satellites,” said Beck.
“Operational logistics are made easier due to New Zealand’s minimal air and sea traffic which enables a significantly more frequent launch rate and economies of scale.”
With traditional rocket systems face long waiting lists and are neither flexible for small payloads, Rocket Labs opted to build its own launch with plans to make 100 launches a year.
“At present, the lead-times for satellite launches are years, and small satellite companies cannot reach orbit in timeframes that keep their businesses competitive,” says Beck.
Users of the site will be able to launch imaging and communications satellites for weather monitoring, natural disaster management as well as GPS and internet from space.
“Creating and operating our own launch site is a necessity to meet the demands of our growing customer manifest,” says Beck.
“With the launch frequency possible from this site, Rocket Lab is one major step closer to its goal of making space commercially accessible.”
A payload into orbit is expected to launch before the end of this year.