Space startup Rocket Lab has successfully launched its Electron rocket from the Mahai Peninsula, propelling New Zealand into the list of spacefaring nations.
After 3 days of delays due to bad weather, the launch was finally conducted earlier today at 4.20 pm local time (4.20 am GMT). Despite being named “It’s a Test”, the event was not merely experimental and distinguishes Rocket Lab as a launch provider that has succeeded in its very first launch attempt.
Although a report by the NZ Herald stated that Rocket Lab said that the Electron failed to reach orbit, a later tweet on the company’s official Twitter account said that the rocket “reached space” successfully. The company is currently investigating why the rocket did not make it to orbit after reaching space, but said that this failure will not diminish the company’s commercial viability.
The launch was a private affair, with the company announcing beforehand that it would not publicly stream it live. However, a select few viewers were allowed to watch a private broadcast of the launch.
Shortly after the successful launch, a video was made public, and viewers can now witness it on Rocket Lab’s Twitter page (https://twitter.com/RocketLabUSA).
The two-stage black-and-white Electron, with a height of 17m and a maximum payload of 225kg, is meant to be cost-effective and was therefore left unpainted, producing a rare confluence of economics and aesthetics.
Rocket Lab tweeted, “Why a black rocket? Carbon composite materials are black! Paint is heavy & adds another process. Plus, doesn’t it look beautiful!”
This launch makes New Zealand the latest country to join the club of spacefaring nations with launch capabilities, and the first nation to achieve this through a private company with no government backing.