[Via Satellite 07-01-2015] Rocket Lab recently announced plans to establish a commercial launch site on Kaitorete Spit in the Canterbury region of New Zealand’s South Island for its Electron launch vehicle. The location, which has been used for suborbital flights by NASA in the past, can reach a wide range of inclinations from sun-synchronous orbit through to 45 degrees.
“Creating and operating our own launch site is a necessity to meet the demands of our growing customer manifest,” said Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck.
Rocket Lab is based in the United Sates, but chose the New Zealand location based on technical, logistical and economic advantages such as access to high inclination and sun-synchronous orbits, and the country’s minimal air and sea traffic, which enable a more frequent launch rate and economies of scale. The company expects the launch site will be completed in the fourth quarter of 2015, after which it will be ready for the first test flight of the Electron vehicle.
Electron is a carbon-composite vehicle capable of delivering payloads of up to 100 kg to a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit, with a dedicated launch priced at $4.9 million. Rocket Lab’s customers include small satellite companies pursuing business in weather, agriculture, natural disaster management, maritime information, search and rescue data, GPS and Internet from space, among others. While Kaitorete Spit will be Rocket Lab’s primary launch site, the company is also evaluating additional New Zealand sites and has already established launch sites in the United States.
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