Govt signs contract authorising Rocket Lab launches

  • Steven Joyce
Economic Development

The Government has today signed a contract authorising Rocket Lab’s space activities from New Zealand, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says.

Rocket Lab, founded by New Zealander Peter Beck, intends to start its launch operations from the Mahia Peninsula later this year. These operations will include the first commercial space launches from New Zealand.

“This contract is an important milestone in the work the Government is doing to support the development of a New Zealand-based space industry,” Mr Joyce says.

“Rocket Lab is capitalising on some of New Zealand’s advantages as an attractive location for space launches. We have clear skies, access to good launch angles, a skilled workforce and an innovation-friendly business environment.”

The contract is an interim measure to allow Rocket Lab to commence launching rockets before the Bill establishing a regulatory regime comes into force.

The Outer Space and High Altitude Activities Bill is expected to be introduced into Parliament later this month and the Government will be seeking to have it passed into law by mid-2017. The Bill facilitates the development of a space industry and its safe and secure operation that meets our international obligations, including the Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA), recently signed with the United States.

The TSA is a bilateral treaty between the New Zealand and United States Governments to enable the use and secure management of US rocket and satellite technology in New Zealand.  It allows commercial entities, including Rocket Lab, to import launch technology and satellites from the US. In terms of its broader international obligations, New Zealand is committed to the peaceful and responsible use of space.

“Rocket Lab is yet another example of our fast-growing and increasingly diverse hi-tech sector, Mr Joyce says. “From innovative software companies to agri-tech to medical technologies to now space, our technology companies by revenue now generate $16.2 billion to the New Zealand economy, employ 98,900 people, and (our top 200 technology firms) deliver $6.5 billion in exports annually.

“Rocket Lab’s leading role in developing a New Zealand space industry will provide opportunities for other entrepreneurs and businesses to realise spin-off benefits in a range of areas such as advanced materials for use in space applications.”

The contract provides the mechanism by which to authorise Rocket Lab’s space activities to be conducted from New Zealand; to manage Government’s liability under the United Nations Liability Convention, and to implement New Zealand's obligations under the TSA, enabling it to enter into force.

The contract is consistent with the draft Bill. Once the Bill becomes law, Rocket Lab will transition to the new regime and the Government can choose to terminate the contract.

Before launching, Rocket Lab needs to obtain a license from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) so it can conduct its space launch activities in New Zealand.