Rocket Lab staged its eighth successful launch at 12.20am last night from Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula.
The "Look Ma No Hands" mission carried the first satellite for a new maritime surveillance constellation for French company Unseenlabs. It will deliver maritime data to help shipping companies monitor their own vessels, as well as threats such as pirates and illegal ships.
The launch also saw satellites deployed for rideshare provider Spaceflight, including the Global-4 satellite for US Earth-observation company BlackSky and two United States Air Force Space Command "technology demonstrators."
Over the past 12 months, Rocket Lab has launched small satellites into space for four US government clients: NASA, SOCOM (Special Operations Command), DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and repeat customer the US Air Force.
Earlier, founder and chief executive Peter Beck played down Rocket Lab's military customers, saying defence technologies like GPS where dual-use, and that his company had only launched experimental not operational payloads.
And although Rocket Lab does not make all details of a mission's manifest public, it does have to disclose all cargo to the NZ Space Agency, with final sign-off by the agency's minister, David Parker. Both safety and "national interest" tests are applied by the NZSA.
Rocket Lab will announce details of its ninth mission in the coming weeks as it contiunes to build toward its goal of a launch a fortnight.
Beck recently revealed his company is developing reusable rockets.
Rocket Lab has also been putting the final touches on its new launchpad, housed at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on the US East Coast.
Beck said earlier this month that it could be one of the fastest launchpad builds ever. It had started driving piles at the beginning of the year and would be ready by year's end.
The customer would be a US government agency.
Beck said some US government clients preferred Rocket Lab to have a US launch site.
However, the Kiwi-American company is also upgrading and expanding its assembly plant in Auckland and its Launch Complex One on the Mahia Peninsula.
Beck said NZ would remain Rocket Lab's high-frequency launch location because of our skies and sea lanes - which, compared to the US East Coast - are empty.
His company is currently on a drive to hire another 100 staff, which will take its total complement to around 600 - most of whom are employed in NZ.