Rocket launches through New Zealand airspace have become a little bit closer to reality, as Airways New Zealand has now approved regular rocket launches.
Rocket Lab, a facility with an orbital launch site on Mahia Peninsula, has been developing an electron rocket that they say will make history.
For the last eighteen months, Rocket Lab has been working with Airways to gain proper approval, and the approval has now passed a 'significant milestone'.
“A ’special use airspace’ will be created around the Electron rocket as it launches through New Zealand airspace. Our air traffic controllers will protect this airspace from other aircraft using airspace separation procedures, and will do all they can to minimise the impact the launch operations may have on other airspace users,” says Pauline Lamb, Airways chief operating officer.
Lamb says safety and flexible access to airspace is important for supporting the emerging launch industry, and Rocket Lab aims to deliver commercial payload with 100 launches every year.
“It’s great to see a New Zealand founded organisation taking a world-leading role in the rocket technology sector. While working alongside Rocket Lab to enable their launches, at the same time we’re helping to position New Zealand as the ideal place to access space from,” Lamb says.
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck says that safety is paramount, particularly in conjunction with other activity in the sky.
“We look forward to working with Airways, who continue to play an important role in ensuring New Zealand’s growing aerospace industry is safe and well-coordinated with all aviation activity,” he says.
Airways states that it has so far enabled 120 near-space launches through New Zealand to date, including balloon launches by NASA and Google.
Airways says New Zealand's 'relatively uncongested airspace' makes New Zealand a lucrative location for this emerging industry.