Kiwi space tech company Rocket Lab is one step closer to its goal of commercial satellite launches from New Zealand.

It's just announced the 'qualification' of its Rutherford Engine and the rocket's second stage - the part that complete the launch by taking the payload into orbit. It has also just hired the 100th rocket engineer at its Auckland base.

Film of a static firing of its second stage rocket engine run earlier this year at its Auckland facility has also been released.

Rocket Lab plans to have three test launches later this year, hoping for its first commercial satellite delivery next year.


Watch: Rocket Lab unveils launch pad plan:

"Our team has successfully pushed the boundaries of many new technologies including carbon composite flight tanks, electric turbo-pumping and 3D Printing. We're looking forward to bring the whole launch vehicle together for testing soon," said Peter Beck Rocket Lab chief executive.

Beck said qualification of the engine was a major milestone for 3D printing - the Rutherford is the first oxygen/hydrocarbon engine to use additive manufacturing for all primary components of the combustor and propellant supply system.

Rocket Lab: NZ satellite launch pitch:

It also has a unique electric propulsion cycle, making use of high-performance brushless DC electric motors and lithium polymer batteries to drive its turbo-pumps.

The size of the team has tripled in the last year, and Rocket Lab is currently advertising over thirty additional roles based in the Research and Development facility in Auckland.

Customers recently signed to fly on Rocket Lab's Electron vehicles include NASA, Moon Express and Spire.

See a Google Map showing the location of Rocket Lab's Mahia Peninsula launch site here: