Friday 16 September 2016 12:12 PM
Government signs contract with Rocket Lab permitting commercial rocket launches
By Sophie Boot
Sept. 16 (BusinessDesk) - The government has authorised the first commercial space rocket launches from New Zealand.
Rocket Lab, which operates a private satellite launch site on the Mahia Peninsula between Napier and Gisborne, intends to start launch operations later this year, Minister for Economic Development Steven Joyce said in a statement. The contract is an interim measure, preceding the Outer Space and High Altitude Activities Bill which will be introduced to Parliament this month to provide a regulatory regime for space launches from New Zealand.
The government wants the bill passed into law by mid-2017, Joyce said. In June, New Zealand signed the Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA) with the United States government, which allows commercial entities, including Rocket Lab, to import launch technology and satellites from the US.
“This contract is an important milestone in the work the government is doing to support the development of a New Zealand-based space industry,” Joyce said. “Rocket Lab is capitalising on some of New Zealand’s advantages as an attractive location for space launches. We have clear skies, access to good launch angles, a skilled workforce and an innovation-friendly business environment.”
Rocket Lab is backed by Silicon Valley investor Khosla Ventures, Stephen Tindall's K1W1 fund, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bessemer Venture Partners, and global defence group Lockheed Martin. In July last year, it signed a contract with the US's National Aeronautics and Space Administration letting it use NASA's resources.
Before launching, Rocket Lab needs to obtain a licence from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) so it can conduct its space launch activities in New Zealand, Joyce said.