6 Jun 2013

Rocket tracked from station near Bluff

10:36 pm on 6 June 2013

A space rocket tracking station in Southland has played its part in the successful launch of a mission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

It is the fourth time the agency has used the tracking station near Bluff to monitor the Ariane 5 rocket as it passes over New Zealand.

The rocket lifted off from the European Space Agency spaceport in French Guyana, on the north Atlantic coast of South America.

Three staff at the New Zealand Tracking Station, located in a paddock halfway between Invercargill and Bluff, relayed information to mission control in Guyana.

The rocket carrying food, water and air is making its way around the Earth, climbing at speeds three times faster than a bullet.

It is set to dock with the International Space Station on 15 June at an altitude of about 400km above the planet at a speed of some 28,000 km/h.

Venture Southland enterprise project manager Robin McNeill, who helped set up the tracking station, said March 2014 would be the last time it would be used by the European Space Agency.

Mr McNeill said he is in talks with other agencies and hopes the station can be used again.