Launching rockets is, hands down, one of the visually coolest things humans can do.

Blasting a carbon-fibre tube towards the stars in a glorious blaze of flame and noise is heart-pumping stuff.

That said, it's the most boring part of why we go to space. It takes 9 minutes and 12 seconds for the Electron rocket to reach orbit.

What happens next though, is why we should all care about space.


Launching rockets is just a means to an end. They're really just big courier vans, taking precious satellite cargo to orbit.

We take for granted the ways we already rely on space for our day-to-day lives.

Thanks to space, you can type an address into your phone and let GPS guide you there. You get to recoil in horror at the dystopian future presented in The Handmaid's Tale as it streams into the comfort of your lounge.

Even paying for your morning coffee is an orbital affair.

When you use your bank card, a satellite link is established between the cafe and your bank.

These things make life comfortable, but satellites can and must do so much more. They are modern-day infrastructure — invisible but indispensable. Economically and socially, satellites are as important as roads, running water and a stable power grid.

Take a weather satellite. It can provide life-saving data on a cyclone travelling towards the coast of New Zealand, then be over Australia just 20 minutes later, providing data on drought patterns and predicted rainfall to farmers in the Outback.

Within the hour, that same satellite might be over Antarctica providing scientists with data on ice cap melt patterns, before zooming over North America and informing pilots about atmospheric conditions they're about to fly through to keep plane passengers safe.

We're only just starting to scratch the surface of what's possible with better access to space, but we know it will play an enormous role in helping to solve some of the biggest challenges facing us as a species.

By 2050, the world's population is expected to reach around 10 billion people. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts the world will need to produce 50 per cent more food than we do today.

Farmers are now using photographs taken from constellations of Earth-imaging satellites, entering them into Geographic Information System (GIS) software and generating detailed crop maps.

These can show two-metre square blocks of farmland overlaid with elevation and slope, as well as soil conditions such as acidity, clay content and water-retention ability for sections of crop.

Infrared detection from space can also be used to accurately measure the amount of leaf area in each block.

Over time, farmers get a detailed analysis of crop growth, allowing them to focus on struggling sections. The result is lower labour costs and higher productivity.

Systems like this will enable us to see the highest possible food production per square metre, helping us feed a growing population.

Looking to the future, mega-constellations of small satellites will provide internet from space to every corner of the globe. To developing nations and people in far flung places, that's a seismic shift.

Until recently, many of these services were provided by giant, bus-sized satellites, launched by enormous rockets to far away geo-stationary orbits.

Today, we're launching small satellites the size of washing machines or even smaller than a shoebox to low Earth orbit.

With Electron, we're getting them to space more frequently and at a lower cost. These satellites can do real science.

They are making a real difference to the way we live our lives, build businesses, run countries and manage resources.

What perhaps excites me the most, is the applications for space that haven't even been thought of yet, which will become part of our everyday lives.

Access to space has been locked until now. Sending a satellite to orbit used to require the resources of a Government or the backing of a billionaire.

This year, we'll send research satellites built by high school students to orbit. If you were to compare existing development in space to the early days of the internet, we have just sent our first email. There is much more to come.

Space is one of the fastest-growing sectors globally. It's a $400 billion industry worldwide and there for the taking.

We've forged a path to create unparalleled orbital launch capability from New Zealand.

We can now access space more frequently from the Māhia Peninsula than the US can from all its launch pads combined.

The space economy is open for business. Now the stage is set and all eyes are on New Zealand as a world leader in new space.

I urge this nation of innovators and problem-solvers to ask, "how can we build on this opportunity, compete for a slice of that multi-billion-dollar pie and change the world for the better?"

Kiwis are well placed to draw on our existing strengths in technology development to build space-based applications for use in agri-technology, climate change modelling, oceanography and structural planning.

We have burst the door open on a new space era and this country can be at the forefront. Not just of launching, but space research, infrastructure and analysis too. And when we all look back in 50 years, there will be some mighty fine-looking footage of all those rocket launches to boot.

- Peter Beck is founder and chief executive of Rocket Lab.