14 Jun 2016

Govt to launch new rules for rockets

3:12 pm on 14 June 2016

The government has started setting up a regulatory regime to allow rockets to be launched into outer space from New Zealand.

John Key and Rocket Lab chief executive, Peter Beck, at the proposed site for new launch pad.

Prime Minister John Key and Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck (file) Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

New Zealand-based start-up Rocket Lab has said it aims to send frequent low-cost rockets carrying satellites into space from the Mahia Peninsula, from as early as next year.

The government said today it would introduce an Outer Space and High Altitude Activities Bill to Parliament, and would also sign an agreement on technology safeguards with the United States - where Rocket Lab's parent company is based.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said the regulations were required so the rockets could be launched safely.

"They [Rocket Lab] intend to launch them quite regularly. My understanding is they have a number of launch customers, in the United States primarily."

Rocket Lab's primary areas of interest were scientific research and telecommunications, Mr Joyce said.

Rocket Lab. Photo from Rocket Lab website

Rocket Lab's Electron is designed to deliver small satellites to orbit. Photo: SUPPLIED / Rocket Lab

"And also earth observation - for the sorts of technology [which are] in the areas like water management and those precision agriculture areas, which are increasingly using information sourced from observation satellites."

The rockets could eventually be launched monthly, he said.

"But it would be a matter of their arrangements with the Wairoa District Council, which has approved how often they can launch and so on."

New Zealand also intended to sign the United Nations Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, which would require the country to keep a register of the space objects it launched.

Read more about the government's proposed regulatory regime for outer space activities

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