Rocket Lab today conducted the first test launch of its Electron rocket, supported by Airways New Zealand to ensure its safe passage through New Zealand’s airspace.
“Today’s launch marks a significant step forward for New Zealand’s burgeoning space and launch services industry. We’re proud to have played a role in helping it to happen,” Airways Chief Operating Officer Pauline Lamb says.
Airways has an agreement with Rocket Lab to provide air traffic services to facilitate ongoing test and commercial operations from the world’s first private orbital launch site on Māhia Peninsula. Airways controllers managed a ‘special use airspace’ put in place around the rocket for today’s launch, protecting the area from other aircraft and limiting disruption to other airspace users.
While the rocket took just minutes to safely pass through New Zealand’s controlled airspace, the test launch was the culmination of more than 12 months of preparations for Airways in consultation with Rocket Lab.
“There is no doubt that the aerospace industry is evolving and Airways’ primary role is about enabling safe and flexible access to controlled airspace to allow the industry to integrate and grow,” Ms Lamb says.
Airways has developed an advanced launch services programme in New Zealand, enabling more than 120 stratospheric balloon launches for organisations including NASA and Google over the past three years.
“New Zealand is already the location of choice for a number of launch activities and we need to continue to work with these operators to ensure we’re making the most of our potential in this future environment,” Ms Lamb says.
Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab, added, “Airways NZ has played an important role in ensuring New Zealand’s growing aerospace industry is safe and well-coordinated with all aviation activity.”