[Via Satellite 12-22-2015] Rocket Lab began construction of an orbital launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula last week, the company announced Dec. 21. The site, located on the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island, will be home to the first launch of Rocket Lab’s Electron vehicle, designed to lift a 150kg payload to a 500km sun-synchronous orbit. Construction of the site is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2016, leading to test flights of Electron.
Due to the Mahia Peninsula’s low population and New Zealand’s minimal air and sea traffic, it is possible to launch from the site at a significantly more frequent rate than other locations. Eventually, Rocket Lab plans to launch from Mahia multiple times a month.
“Currently, lead-times to reach orbit are years. As a result, the growth of small satellite companies has been limited by the difficulty in getting assets on orbit. With the launch frequency possible from Mahia, Rocket Lab is one major step closer to its goal of making space accessible to businesses,” said Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab.
Rocket Lab also attributes owning and operating its orbital range as part of its strategy to lower launch costs. Electron has a price tag of $4.9 million for missions to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). From the Mahia site it is possible for the rocket to reach a wide range of orbital azimuths ranging from 39 degrees through to polar and sun-synchronous orbits.