You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Rocket launches from private NZ pad

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 25/05/2017

New Zealand has finally entered the space age with the world-first successful launch of an orbital rocket from a private pad, but it didn't quite reach orbit.

US-New Zealand aerospace company Rocket Lab announced on Thursday afternoon it had successfully launched its Electron rocket from the remote Mahia Peninsula, between Napier and Gisborne on day four of a 10-day launch window.

"Made it to space. Team delighted. More to follow!" the company, run by Invercargill-born chief executive and founder Peter Beck, announced on Twitter about 4.30pm.

The rocket reached space but it did not reach orbit and while they maintain the flight puts them in good stead they will now investigate what went wrong.

The launch makes New Zealand just the 11th country to launch an orbital rocket, but the first from a private facility.

It's a major milestone in the development of New Zealand's space industry, Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges said, congratulating those involved.

"It is the first visible sign of a space industry in New Zealand and is an achievement Rocket Lab and all New Zealanders can be proud of," he said.

"We hope the launch will encourage others to come to New Zealand and enjoy the same attractive features that Rocket Lab is taking advantage of, including good access to orbits, clear skies, a skilled workforce and an innovation friendly environment."

The second sign of a space programme came in Thursday's budget, which included $15 million over four years to fund the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as New Zealand's "lead space agency".

Electron is designed to carry small satellites into low orbit cheaper than current alternatives and Thursday's launch is planned to be the first of three test flights.

The launch came after setbacks earlier in the week, including having to pull out of Wednesday's attempt just 12 minutes before launch as weather closed in.

Prime Minister Bill English earlier said if the launch was successful it could have an ongoing impact on the industry and the region.

"And it's all been driven by a boy from Invercargill who has this incredible set of skills, ranging from raising finance, running a complex organisation, holding international negotiations and is technically brilliant," he said.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon