Lift-off from Northern Hawke's Bay is months away, with the first rocket delivered to Rocket Lab's launch site earlier this week.
The late-night arrival of the first Electron rocket at the Mahia Peninsula site marks the beginning of pre-flight checks.
After a series of tests the rocket, named "It's a Test", will be signed-off to fly - with the first launch expected in the coming months.
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said they were excited to reach this "major milestone", which followed 10 years of hard work from a team of more than 100 people.
Three years since the project began, the start of the test launches is also an important step for the space industry, both in New Zealand and globally, he said.
Wairoa mayor Craig Little said there was a lot of excitement in the district about the first launches.
"There are a lot of people starting to realise it's the real thing, these guys are the real deal" he said. "It's going to be a good year."
Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges acknowledged the milestone and said they were taking a keen interest in the planned test and commercial launches.
"We have the opportunity to leverage off the existence of Rocket Lab to build New Zealand's capacity and expertise in a range of space-related activities and to support the strategic opportunities that are likely to flow," he said.
Mr Beck was unable to give an exact timeframe for launch - although both the rocket, and range were ready, he said there was still a "tremendous amount" of work to do.
When there is blast off, it will be the first orbital launch attempt from New Zealand, and the first of three planned test launches before commercial satellite launches are offered later this year.
There will be a series of attempt windows, due to the possibility of "scrubbed" launches - when they are delayed due to weather, or technical modifications to the vehicle.
Although Mr Beck said they understood the "desire everyone has to get out there and watch", they wanted to temper spectators' expectations.
"History has shown with any test launch programme that there is a likelihood of scrubs. We value everyone's time, and wouldn't want people waiting around for us."
There will be exclusion zones around the area for launches, blocking air, and marine space. Safety requirements also meant some areas of MahiaPeninsula would be closed to the public.
The Wairoa District Council will be evaluating possible locations for spectators to view launches.
Flights for 2017 and 2018 were already largely booked. The company hope to launch flights once a month.
Customers already signed to fly on Electron include Nasa, Planet, Spire and Moon Express.
Currently the Government is developing a regulatory framework which will encourage growth of a peaceful, safe, responsible and secure space industry that meets New Zealand's international obligations and manages any liability associated with space launches.
The Outer Space and High Altitude Activities Bill, before Parliament, is due to pass into law in mid-2017.