Space Minister Phil Twyford is defending a Rocket Lab payload that will spew space junk for entertainment.

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The Kiwi-American company's next Electron launch from Mahia will include the ALE-2 satellite from Japanese company ALE.

The Sun said ALE-2 would provide artificial meteor showers for the "mega rich" on-demand, at the location of their choice. The satellite will shoot pellets into the atmosphere to simulate shooting stars.


As Space Minister, Twyford must sign off on every satellite carried by every Rocket Lab mission.

He told the Herald he had no problem giving ALE-2 the tick.

"I carefully consider all space activity on a case-by-case basis to ensure they are safe, sustainable, and responsible, and meet our regulatory requirements," Twyford told the Herald this afternoon.

"I approved this payload after the New Zealand Space Agency [part of MBIE] undertook a detailed months-long analysis of any environmental and legal considerations. This analysis found the activity proposed is safe, any orbital debris risks have been mitigated and it complies with our international obligations.

"There are no environmental concerns, as the small pellets will burn up entirely in the atmosphere. The localised and short duration of the artificial meteor shower means the light pollution impact is negligible."

The Space Agency also consulted with international counterparts, in particular the Japanese Government, which has also licensed this payload, Twyford said.

"The permit holder is a Japanese company and in the first instance the display will be over Tokyo.

"New Zealand has an emerging space sector and I encourage the use of new technology and new space applications."


Rocket Lab will carry multiple microsatellites on its next launch in a rideshare mission representing five different countries on its upcoming flight.

Named "Running Out Of Fingers", the mission – Rocket Lab's sixth for the year and 10th overall – will take place during a 14-day launch window opening on November 25.

The mission will lift off from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand's Māhia Peninsula.

Onboard the rideshare mission are six spacecraft comprised of 5cm PocketQube microsatellites from satellite manufacturer and mission management provider Alba Orbital.

The final payload is procured by satellite rideshare and mission management provider Spaceflight for ALE Co Ltd (ALE), a Tokyo-based company creating microsatellites that simulate meteor particles.

Rocket Lab has styled ALE's ALE-2 satellite as having both entertainment and research roles. In a report earlier this year, The Sun said ALE-2 would provide artificial meteor showers for the "mega rich" on-demand at the location of their choice. ALE-2 will shoot particles into the atmosphere to simulate shooting stars.


For this mission, Electron's first stage will not be recovered, however the stage includes new hardware and sensors to inform future recovery efforts.

Electron's booster will include guidance and navigation hardware, including S-band telemetry and onboard flight computer systems, to gather data during the first stage's atmospheric re-entry.

Peter Beck, Rocket Lab co-founder and CEO, said increasing launch frequency for small satellite operators is the key driver behind the company's reusability program.

"Reaching our 10th flight within only two years of commercial operations is an incredible achievement. Thanks to the continued dedication and passion of the teams at Rocket Lab, responsive and frequent access to space is the new normal for small satellites.

"As we move beyond once-a-month missions towards our goal of weekly launches, recovering and reusing Electron could play a significant role in increasing launch frequency."

Payloads onboard 'Running Out Of Fingers':



A payload from Advanced Technology of Laser (ATL) from Hungary designed to test a new thermal isolation material in space, conduct a thermal insulator material experiment, and DVB-T band spectrum monitoring.

Fossasat-1: FossaSat 1 is a picosatellite developed by Spanish non-profit organisation Fossa Systems. The spacecraft, which fits in the palm of a hand, is a communications satellite that uses low-power RF to provide IOT connectivity.

NOOR 1A & NOOR 1B: These satellites from Stara Space will demonstrate LEO-to-LEO intersatellite link technology communicating with ground stations on Earth; crucial technologies required to create a real-time global communications constellation in space.

SMOG-P: A novel spectrum monitoring payload built by students at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics in Hungary. Smog-P features a spectrum analyser to measure man-made electromagnetic pollution from space.

TRSI Sat: ACME AtronOmatic is a US-Germany based software application development company that provides flight tracking services to the aviation community and to mobile applications such as MyRadar, a weather radar application for mobile devices.

ALE-2: Tokyo-based ALE Co., Ltd 's ALE-2 satellite aims to create human-made shooting stars by simulating re-entering meteor particles. The satellite includes multiple redundant attitude sensors and controllers, as well as a propulsion system for manoeuvres.