Rocket Lab is scheduled to have another go at launch today after scrubbing its third attempt yesterday.

It has thanked Mahia locals, supporters and emergency services for their patience and says weather constraints will diminish during the commercial phase of its programme.

The company was within 12 minutes of launch yesterday, but said atmospheric conditions developed that could have damaged systems on the rocket.

The company said the focus during the test programme was on testing rocket systems rather than the ability to deal with adverse weather.


Peter Beck, chief executive and founder of Rocket Lab, said that similar to yesterday, high-altitude cloud created a risk of triboelectrification.

''Our team were able to fuel the vehicle and prepare it for flight, but worsening weather conditions meant we were forced to delay. We'll have another go tomorrow. The team did a great job today, and our operations are running smoothly,'' he said yesterday.

"We'd like to thank local residents, supporters and emergency services for their patience.

"Because this is a test launch, our weather constraints are more restrictive than they will be during commercial operations. We are focused on the best possible weather conditions for launch. This is so we can focus on testing the rocket as a priority, rather than its ability to deal with adverse weather conditions.''

Triboelectrification was a common reason for launches being scrubbed overseas.

"If the cloud is below -10C there's a possibility of ice particles and if we travel through that cloud at greater than 3000 feet per second then we can generate a static charge and that's enough to cause damage to the electronics of the vehicle," he said.

When asked whether there was any ''go fever'' that has afflicted other space missions, Beck said everybody in his team was ''excited to get this one away'' but also very disciplined.

''Nobody is trying to launch a rocket in a feverish kind of way. It is a methodical and clinical decision - either conditions are right or they're not."


A MetService scientist was working with Rocket Lab's own weather team sending up balloons to gather data and feeding it in real time to mission control in Auckland - where Beck is.

"It's a very structured programme - there's no point in pushing the envelope at such an early stage. We always said we'll go when we're ready. We're ready but the weather's not."

The first possible launch was scrubbed on Monday because of high winds.

If Rocket Lab succeeds, this will be the first rocket launched into space from New Zealand, joining 10 other countries that have.

The Science Media Centre has asked international experts about what makes the Electron rocket different and where the company sits in the independent space market.

One, Professor Martin Barstow of the University of Leicester and director of the Leicester Institute of Space and Earth Observation, said Rocket Lab was part of the new spirit of commercial enterprise around low-cost access to space.

Elon Musk's Space-X was a prime example.

"In the current context Rocket Lab are not so well advanced, as they have yet to carry out their first launch. Also, their 225kg payload mass is rather smaller than other capabilities," he said.

"However, I think there will be a growing need for launch capability for lower-mass satellites like this to build satellite constellations. So, if successful, they will be well-placed to support and exploit that market."

He said it was not clear how the business model functions because he did not know the pricing structure but Rocket Lab was hitting an emerging market.

On technology used, he said the use of 3-D printing techniques to produce key components was very novel and likely to lower production costs, giving the company a pricing edge and could help with reliability.

There were no particular advantages for launching from New Zealand.

"In fact the best launch sites are closer to the equator to get the maximum advantage from the Earth's rotation. So, this is more about developing independent capability, so that the country does not have to rely on launch services from elsewhere," said Barstow.

"There is a similar issue in the UK where our Government is keen to develop launch site opportunities. It's actually more difficult here due to the proximity of Europe. From New Zealand, you can launch safely over the Pacific."

He said it was "a very exciting project, but getting into space is hard and success is not guaranteed".