New Zealand’s Rocket Lab Opens Second Launch Pad in United States

July 11, 2018 6:35 pm Last Updated: July 12, 2018 1:51 pm

WELLINGTON (Reuters)—Rocket Lab, a Silicon Valley-funded space launch company, planned to open a second launch site in the United States to complement its remote New Zealand pad, the firm said on Wednesday.

Rocket Lab said it was considering four sites on both the East and West coasts and would make a final decision in August.

Founder and Chief Executive Peter Beck said in an emailed statement that launching from the United States “adds an extra layer of flexibility for our government and commercial customers.”

The Auckland- and Los Angeles-headquartered firm has designed a battery-powered, partly 3D-printed rocket and has touted its service as a way for companies to get satellites into orbit regularly.

Its successful launch of a rocket that deployed satellites in January after years of preparation was an important step in the global commercial race to bring down financial and logistical barriers to space.

Rocket Lab counts the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as well as earth imaging firm Planet and global data and analytics company Spire among its customers.

American sites being considered were Cape Canaveral in Florida, Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Rocket Lab said.

The firm expected its first launch from the United States would take place in the second quarter of 2019.

Rocket Lab operates the world’s only private orbital launch pad on the Mahia Peninsula in northwest New Zealand, Beck’s home country.

The island nation is well-positioned to send satellites bound for a north-to-south orbit around the poles, whereas the United States is better for satellites flying west to east.

Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield