Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Blastoff - NZ signs space deal with US

Peter Beck of NZ rocket company Rocket Lab. Photo / Geoff Dale
Peter Beck of NZ rocket company Rocket Lab. Photo / Geoff Dale

New Zealand has signed an agreement with the United States imposing rules for Outer Space and use of rocket equipment as Auckland-based company Rocket Lab gears up for a launch.

The agreement covered safeguards associated with the use in New Zealand of controlled US rocket technology.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Foreign Minister Murray McCully said New Zealand would have have a world class space regulatory framework which includes the Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA) with the United States, accession to the United Nations Convention on Registration of Objects launched into Outer Space, and a new law governing space and high altitude activities.

"The TSA which will be signed in Washington this week paves the way for innovative companies, in the first instance Rocket Lab through its U.S. parent company, to launch rockets and satellites from New Zealand," Joyce said.

Rocket Lab welcomed the agreement, saying the Government's commitment to seeing New Zealand join the global space arena was exciting news for our country.

"The space economy generates over $330 billion dollars annually, and presents a considerable opportunity for New Zealand," said Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck.

"New Zealand has a unique opportunity to capitalise on its geographic position, which provides ideal launch trajectories for small satellites."

Joyce said the agreement contained safeguards to protect controlled US rocket and satellite technology while ensuring New Zealand agencies retain the ability to perform their statutory tasks.

"New Zealand has also reserved the ability to prevent a launch in New Zealand that is contrary to New Zealand law or policies".

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has designated the TSA as a major bilateral treaty of particular significance and it will be subject to a Parliamentary treaty examination by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

Rocket Lab's Electron - the world's first Carbon composite launch vehicle aimed at cutting the price of putting satellites into orbit. Photo / Richard Robinson
Rocket Lab's Electron - the world's first Carbon composite launch vehicle aimed at cutting the price of putting satellites into orbit. Photo / Richard Robinson

"The Agreement with the US will provide a platform to build on the long-standing links that exist between many New Zealand and US technology companies, McCully said.

" It adds an additional dimension to our close, established relationship with the US while protecting New Zealand's national interests."

New Zealand has also decided to join the UN Convention on Registration of Objects launched into Outer Space which means the country will establish and maintain a register of space objects launched from here and a mechanism to identify space objects.

This was consistent with New Zealand adopting the position of being a "responsible" launching site.

Rocket Lab's Electron is being developed to launch satellites into space at a much lower cost than other operators and is developing a launch site at Mahia, south of Gisborne.

Beck said economic growth opportunities will stem from direct and indirect employment, the development of large infrastructure, and the engagement of domestic suppliers and facilities.

"We believe the launch site will create further employment and tourism opportunities in regional New Zealand."

- NZ Herald

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