Rocket Lab is just about go for launch, announcing a 10-day lift off attempt window from next week.
The New Zealand-US company says a test launch window has been set down from May 22 at its Mahia peninsula site and will be the first time a rocket has been launched into orbit from a private facility.
The rocket will reach the cruising altitude of an airliner in one minute.
For Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck a launch will be the culmination of a more than a decade of planning and development of rockets smaller than the 17-metre tall Electron which will, after test launches, carry small satellites into space at a much lower cost than existing operators.
The company is urging spectators to stay away from the area, saying there is strong likelihood of launches being scrubbed and that its launch complex 1 site at the end of the Mahia Peninsula will not be visible from any publicly accessible sites.
The company, which had some New Zealand government funding but is largely funded by US investors, has spent months fine-tuning the $7m carbon-fibre rocket at the site after it was taken by truck from its Auckland manufacturing base.
It says it was common for launches to be scrubbed as small, technical modifications are often required, particularly during a test phase. Weather could also cause scrubs with wind and heavy rain would likely result in a postponement.
As part of the launch attempt, Mahia East Coast Road will be closed to the general public
from 9am-8pm on May 22. Subsequent road closures will be notified following any
decision to scrub a launch attempt.
The launch will be monitored from Rocket Lab's mission control in Auckland and all site and launch safety is managed at range control 2.4km north of the launch pad. There won't be livestreaming of the event.
The liquid oxygen-and-kerosene powered rocket will reach a speed of 27,000km/h to reach orbit. The climb will be slow at first, taking about three seconds to clear the four-storey high tower, but as it becomes lighter it will accelerate, reaching a commercial airliner's typical cruising altitude in about a minute.
Observers on the ground may see the rocket turn and fly towards the southern horizon.
Mahia, between Gisborne and Napier, is an ideal launch site because of the lack of air and marine traffic in the area.
Beck said the test launch attempt would collect valuable data for future test and commercial launches.
"We are all incredibly excited to get to this point. Our talented team has been preparing for
years for this opportunity and we want to do our best to get it right. Our number one priority is to gather enough data and experience to prepare for a commercial phase,'' he said.
It is envisaged that there could be three test launches before commercial cargo is taken into space, about 300km to 500km above Earth. Customers include Nasa, Planet, Spire and Moon Express.
Electron is an entirely carbon-composite vehicle that uses Rocket Lab's 3D-printed Rutherford engines. It is capable of delivering payloads of up to 150kg.