The country's first space rocket company is now almost clear to launch, with the Government today signing off on a contract authorising Rocket Lab's activities from New Zealand.
The Auckland-based company, founded by innovator Peter Beck, plans to begin to launch its Electron rockets from Mahia Peninsula later this year, in what will be the first commercial space launches from New Zealand.
The contract is an interim measure to allow the company to commence launching rockets before the bill establishing a regulatory regime comes into force.
The Outer Space and High Altitude Activities Bill is expected to be introduced into Parliament later this month and the Government will be seeking to have it passed into law by mid next year.
The legislation allowed for the development of a space industry and its safe and secure operation meeting New Zealand's international obligations, including the Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA), recently signed with the United States.
The TSA is a bilateral treaty between the New Zealand and United States governments to enable the use and secure management of US rocket and satellite technology in New Zealand.
It allows commercial entities, including Rocket Lab, to import launch technology and satellites from the US.
Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce, who signed the authorisation at Rocket Lab's Mangere offices this morning, said the contract was an important milestone in the work the Government was doing to support the development of a Kiwi-based space industry.
"Rocket Lab is capitalising on some of New Zealand's advantages as an attractive location for space launches," Joyce said.
"We have clear skies, access to good launch angles, a skilled workforce and an innovation-friendly business environment."
The company's leading role in developing a New Zealand space industry would also provide opportunities for other entrepreneurs and businesses to realise spin-off benefits in a range of areas, such as advanced materials for use in space applications, Joyce said.
Before launching, Rocket Lab needs to obtain a license from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) so it can conduct its space launch activities in New Zealand.
Earlier this month, Rocket Lab signed a deal with Airways to clear airspace for a launch from Mahia.