Although Rocket Lab's second test launch attempt did not get off the ground, 2017 has still been a ground-breaking year for the company, and the country.

It was just over a year ago that the company opened its Launch Complex 1 at the tip of Mahia Peninsula. Since then, they have launched one rocket, and gone through a second launch window.

Rocket Lab co-founder and CE Peter Beck said 2017 had been a year of unprecedented achievements.

"I think back to where we were at the start of the year to where we are now, it's just a huge, huge leap," he said.


"The thing is that every year I reflect back like that and it's the same kind of leap every year, so next year's [2018] going to be a big one."

In the days leading up to the first launch in May, there had been successive delays, and scrubbed launch attempts. With the weather packing in and the end of the launch window drawing near, hopes were beginning to fail.

But then, history was made about 4.20pm on May 26, when the Electron vehicle blasted off from the Mahia facility, reaching space at 4.23pm. As well as being the first successful test launch of the rocket, it was the first orbital-class rocket launched from a private launch site in the world.

Even though the 17m Electron rocket did not manage to reach orbit due to a third-party telecommunications error, it was still a milestone for the company, the country, and the space industry.

Although the first test itself was a highlight, Mr Beck said it had also given them enough data to commit to full production.

"There's another six vehicles in production right now, with the third one coming up to be ready at the beginning of the year as well, so a huge, huge scale-up. There's been massive growth in the production."

In December the company was ready to try again - opening a 10-day launch window in which to launch its second test rocket, "Still Testing", into orbit.

However, because of bad weather, technical difficulties, or bad timing with the flight path of the international space station, the window saw a number of scrubbed launches, including one which was aborted seconds from scheduled lift-off.

A day before the window closed, the company announced it would delay another launch attempt until early 2018 after a power fault was discovered.

Mr Beck said that, although it would have been great to get the second rocket away this year, "that would be almost unprecedented two test flights in one year".

"Obviously, we would have loved to get it away and we came as close as physically possible to get it away, but we'll take the time for the team to have a much deserved rest and come back early in the year."

He said he would never would have envisaged the second test flight would carry payloads for two clients - two Earth-imaging Dove satellites for Planet and two Lemur-2 satellites from Spire for weather mapping and ship traffic tracking.

"Once again it was unprecedented. Normally you don't have customers on a spacecraft test flight, but it speaks volumes to the confidence that everybody has in the vehicle and the team."

As well as the two launch attempts, he said, 2017 had seen a "tremendous" amount of work by their staff to reach this stage.

"It's really hard to explain what goes on behind the scenes, but we have a team here that do the most incredible work," he said. "The launch vehicle is probably 50 per cent of it, the other 50 per cent is all the regulatory work you need to do, all of the people and agencies behind the scenes, just to arrive at a launch window.

"It's a huge, huge logistical exercise. It's like a rugby world cup every time you want to launch a rocket."

Mr Beck and his team would be having a much-earned break before getting back to work to prepare for another launch attempt this year.

Initially the company planned on undertaking three test launches. Ahead of the second window, the company said it would launch a third test flight if needed, but it was keen to accelerate its transition into full commercial operations.

Electron is designed to make space "open for business", with Electron designed to carry satellites into space at a fraction of the normal cost.

At full production, Rocket Lab expects to launch more than 50 times a year, and is regulated to launch up to 120 times a year - last year there were 22 launches from the United States, and 82 internationally.

Rocket Lab's commercial phase will see Electron fly already-signed customers including Nasa, Spire, Planet, Moon Express and Spaceflight.​