The historical Space Race between countries might be welcoming a new contender. New Zealand is planning on becoming the first country to house a private orbital launch site.
Rocket Lab: The Company
Rocket Lab, a New Zealand-born company currently based out of the United States, has announced that it will be constructing the first commercial orbital launch site, which will be located in the Canterbury region of New Zealand. The company moved from their startup location to the U.S. in 2010 when they won a contract from the Operationally Responsive Space Office. The company claims that, although they are native to New Zealand, the reason they chose this area for the first private orbital launch site was due to absence of competing launch sites and low amounts of air traffic.
Rocket Lab’s Mission: A Private Orbital Launch Site
Rocket Lab also has plans to build their own launch vehicle, and has already scheduled a launch date. They aren’t wasting any time as they plan for their first satellite to be in orbit by the end of this year. In addition to this new launch site, Rocket Lab is hoping to eventually launch 100 satellites per year into orbit, only costing them $5 million per launch. Currently, the price of launching from a public site is somewhere around $50 million, so comparably, the cost of launching privately seems reasonable. If a company were to attempt to launch from a state-owned site, it could be a very costly venture and waiting times could potentially be a year or more.
The Future: Public and Private Orbital Launch Sites
Various companies have large launching contracts with NASA and the military, such as SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, and all the work being done by these companies, including Rocket Lab, is crucial to the future of orbital launching. Frequency is Rocket Lab’s hope for the future in the launching industry, their goal being to launch as often as demanded of them. “With the launch frequency possible from this site, Rocket Lab is one major step closer to its goal of making space commercially accessible,” said Rocket Lab CEO, Peter Beck, although they have clearly specified that they do not plan on sending people into space. According to Fortune, the small satellite industry is rapidly growing, so the anticipated cost of launching from the Rocket Lab private orbital launch site could be a great advantage to the company.