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LAUNCH PAD
Rocket agreement marks countdown to New Zealand's first space launch
by Staff Writers
Wellington, New Zealand (XNA) Sep 22, 2016


File image.

The New Zealand government on Friday authorized the country's first-ever space launches, which are due to begin before the end of this year.

The government had signed a contract with the U.S.-owned Rocket Lab, a commercial space launch operator using technology developed in New Zealand, for launch operations on the Mahia Peninsula, on the east of the North Island.

"This contract is an important milestone in the work the government is doing to support the development of a New Zealand-based space industry," Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said in a statement.

"Rocket Lab is capitalizing 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."

The contract was an interim measure to allow Rocket Lab to commence launching rockets before a Bill establishing a regulatory regime comes into force.

The Outer Space and High Altitude Activities Bill would facilitate the development of a space industry and its safe and secure operation that meets the country's international obligations, including the Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA), recently signed with the United States.

The TSA was a bilateral treaty to enable the use and secure management of U.S. rocket and satellite technology in New Zealand.

In terms of its broader international obligations, New Zealand is committed to the peaceful and responsible use of space, said Joyce.

Before launching, Rocket Lab needed to obtain a license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration so it could conduct its space launch activities in New Zealand.

Other groups working in the New Zealand satellite industry include two potential regional research institutes that have been shortlisted to develop business cases for the government.

NASA and Internet search giant Google have launched high altitude balloons from New Zealand.


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