Space On Offer For Historic NZ Rocket Launch
Payload Space On Offer For Historic New Zealand Space Launch
Private aerospace company Rocket Lab is preparing for a historic first launch into space from New Zealand. The Atea-1 launch vehicle is scheduled to fly the week beginning November 30th from Great Mercury Island. The exact launch date and time is weather dependent.
One of the company’s key aims it to make space more accessible to a broader market. As part of the first launch Rocket Lab is auctioning a small amount of payload space on Trade Me for New Zealanders and on eBay for the international market, with the successful bidders securing VIP positions at the launch.
Based on significant interest for payload space on previous international launches and the high profile nature of the launch, the Internet auctions provide a unique marketing opportunity. Rocket Lab expects a wide variety of parties to consider being involved. There will likely be commercial parties wanting to launch their product or service into space, through to people wanting to launch a sentimental / memento payload such as photos, jewellery or an item of significance. It is also expected that the auctions will attract interest from space enthusiasts that want to be part of the VIP viewing party at Great Mercury Island.
This is the first launch in a series where the primary payload will be instrumentation measuring the vehicle’s performance. Space Services Inc will be including a payload on Atea-1’s first launch. Space Services Inc is a Texas-based aerospace company with a heritage encompassing nearly 30 years in private sector space missions.
The Atea-1 program is significant because it will: Be the first privately owned company in the Southern Hemisphere to launch a rocket to space Launch the Southern Hemisphere’s first commercial space programme Be the first commercial sounding rocket to use new hybrid fuel technology Use a unique low-emission fuel that allows more flight options compared to conventional solid fuel rockets Give the global scientific community the first practical alternative to conventional rockets – at significantly lower cost
The rocket produces over 1,500 lbs of thrust and is designed specifically for scientific sub-orbital ‘sounding’ missions. It will travel at Mach 5 to an altitude of 120 kilometres (space starts at 100 kilometres) then return to Earth in a sub-orbital ballistic arc, to be recovered from a splashdown at sea. It has a payload of just two kilogram’s. This weight however is more than enough for modern miniaturised scientific instruments.
The final flight qualification tests were completed on the avionics package on November 1st. A low altitude flight test was conducted and the flight vehicle was purposely put into a complex flight profile including spin and pitch oscillations. The avionics package was able to resolve all of these complicated motions and make the correct decisions, resulting in a successful recovery of the test flight vehicle.
Peter Beck, Rocket Lab CEO, says, “We have been extremely pleased with progress made during the flight qualification phase. It has provided us with valuable data on vehicle performance and we feel ready for our first space shot.”
The island and month is a fitting place for conducting this historic launch, as its namesake is derived 240 years ago from Captain James Cook’s observation of the transit of Mercury in November of 1769. Rocket Lab is currently focused on completing assembly and check out of the first Atea-1 vehicle and setting up the launch site at Great Mercury Island as the company works towards the final countdown.