Rocket Lab has selected Nasa's Wallops Launch Facility in the US state of Virginia for its first US launch site.

The Kiwi-American company had been accessing four North American sites to complement its existing Launch Complex One on the Mahia Peninsula.

Founder and chief executive Peter Beck said Rocket Lab would build its own launchpad at Wallops, with monthly launches expected to start in the third quarter of next year.

Some 30 jobs will be immediately created in Virginia, with another 100 in the pipeline, Beck said. Rocket Lab employs 330, with around 200 positions based in Auckland.


The selection of Wallops will mean an increase in production at Rocket Lab's Huntington Beach, California factory, which is around 50 per cent larger than the assembly plant it opened in Auckland last week.

Read more: Rocket Lab - big growth plans to go with big new Auckland factory

Beck told the Herald that although his company is expanding into US launches, and currently scouting for a third launch site in the UK, New Zealand will always be its highest-frequency launch site - due to our relatively empty skies and shipping lanes, and liberal aerospace regulation.

Rocket Lab's aim is to launch up to 120 times annually by 2020.

Four spaceports were shortlisted to become Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2, including Cape Canaveral, the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base. Wallops Flight Facility made the final cut thanks to high flight frequency available from the site, as well as rapid construction timelines that will see Rocket Lab target the first Electron launch from US soil Q3 2019, Beck said.

Rocket Lab continues to assess additional launch sites in the US and internationally to provide additional launch flexibility for small satellite customers, Beck said. A site in Asia is possible.

The company also maintains agreements with Cape Canaveral in Florida and Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska to conduct launches from existing pads as required.

Following a successful test flight in January, Beck said Rocket Lab is on track for its first commercial launch of one of its Electron rockets in November, which will be followed by a second two weeks later. Delays since June have been caused by minor technical issues, Beck said.