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spaceSpace and Physics

First Ever Private Launch Site for Orbital Rockets Could be in New Zealand

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Morenike Adebayo

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clockJul 9 2015, 14:48 UTC
1004 First Ever Private Launch Site for Orbital Rockets Could be in New Zealand
Artist's impression of how the launch site will look on Kaitorete Spit, New Zealand. Rocket Lab.

New Zealand could be on its way to joining the space race and it’s doing so in style, becoming the first country to give liftoff to orbital rockets from a privately-owned launch site.

New Zealand-born and U.S.-based astronomy company Rocket Lab will construct the facility on Kaitorete Spit, located along the South Island of New Zealand.

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And they’re not hesitating to get started – Rocket Lab plans to launch its first satellite into low Earth orbit by the end of this year.

Why the decision to go private? Launching into orbit from state-owned sites is simply too costly and has lengthy waiting lists, explains Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck, speaking to New Scientist.

“You pretty much have to write a check for a billion dollars,” said Beck. “What would happen if you removed a zero off the end of that? It opens the market up to more interesting ventures.”

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New Zealand doesn’t immediately appear to be the most obvious choice of location for a launch pad to space. While the company was founded in New Zealand, the decision is not a sentimental one. Beck said: “It is surprising for some people but for us it makes sense. It's not because we started in New Zealand or anything like that.”

Reducing shipping by manufacturing the rockets and launch sites in one place does make good business sense. The location also apparently offers low air traffic and “valuable orbital slots.”

According to Beck, because of the frequency of launches, the unusual location and the advances in new rocket technology, Rocket Lab plans to launch 100 orbital rockets each year, with each costing a measly $5 million.

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[H/T: New Scientist]


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