Rocket Lab completed its launch site in New Zealand, which the company called the world’s first private orbital launch complex.
Located on the Mahia Peninsula, Launch Complex 1 will be the primary site for launches of Rocket Lab’s Electron vehicle, designed to lift a 150 kg payload to a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit. Construction of the launch complex started in December and saw the upgrade of 3 km of roads as well as local internet infrastructure, according to a company statement.
Rocket Lab completed major milestones in 2016 with the qualification of the 3D-printed Rutherford engine, qualification of the second stage of the vehicle and the development of major infrastructure, including remote tracking, test facilities and the launch site. The company is currently working through the qualification of the first stage of the Electron rocket and will look to begin the test flight phase once qualification and launch licensing are complete.
Rocket Lab believes New Zealand’s remote island location and low volume of marine and air traffic create ideal conditions for frequent launch opportunities. In addition, launches from the site can access a uniquely wide range of orbital inclinations, from 39 degrees through sun-synchronous.