Hawke's Bay was the centre of an out-of-this-world experience as a rocket blasted into orbit from Mahia yesterday.

Rocket Lab's second test launch achieved lift-off at 2.43pm yesterday from the company's Launch Complex 1 on Mahia Peninsula.

This follows the company's first launch last May, in which the rocket got to space but did not make it to orbit after range safety officials had to kill the flight.

The nine-day launch window opened on Saturday with more than 50 people eagerly awaiting blast-off at the unofficial viewing site off Blucks Pit Rd, Nuhaka, only to be disappointed by a "rogue" boat.


The planned launch on Saturday was put on hold less than a minute before scheduled lift-off after a boat entered the launch-range area resulting in a manually induced hold, Rocket Lab's mission control in Auckland said.

However, all systems were go yesterday and the rocket reached orbit, deploying customer payloads at 8 minutes and 31 seconds after lift-off.

Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck said this marked the beginning of a new era in commercial access to space.

"We're thrilled to reach this milestone so quickly after our first test launch."

Following yesterday's success, Rocket Lab expects to launch more than 50 times a year at full production, more than any other commercial or government launch provider in history, he said.

On Saturday, Doug and Diane Brennan came all the way from Wellington to watch the launch because their son is on the launch team.

Mr Brennan said they would be staying until Monday and had hoped for blast-off before then.

"We're excited and proud," Mrs Brennan said.

Patrick and Elizabeth McCormack, of Wairoa, said they had also hoped to see the launch on Saturday but were unlucky.


Having something so unique in Wairoa was very positive for the district, he said.

"It's got people talking and it's bringing people into Wairoa.

"It's put Wairoa on the map."

Katie Woodruffe drove with her family from Poukawa for the day on Saturday in the hopes of sharing some real life science action with her children and while they did not get to see a launch they would be coming again in the future.

"It's not often that you can do things of this magnitude so close to home," she said.

Rocket Lab engineers will now analyse the data from yesterday's blast-off to inform future launches.

Rocket Lab has five Electron vehicles in production, with the next launch expected to take place early this year.

A third test launch into Sun-synchronous orbit of between 300km and 500km above the Earth's surface would need to be successful before the company could move into commercial missions.

The rocket, named Still Testing, was carrying a Dove Pioneer Earth-imaging satellite for launch customer Planet, as well as two Lemur-2 satellites for weather and ship-tracking company Spire.

Rocket Lab had attempted to launch Still Testing in December but unfavourable conditions meant it had to be aborted seconds before lift-off.