Monday, November 30, 2009

New Zealand has a Space Program....apparently!

One late breaking news item that managed to cut though all the media surrounding the political crisis over the Australian Government's climate change bill, was today's rocket launch in New Zealand.

Apparently New Zealand has a space program!

Launch Image - Credit: Peter Beck CEO Rocket Labs

Rocket Lab a private New Zealand company launched one of its own locally designed and built rockets, into sub-orbital flight with a 22 second burn. The rocket dubbed "Manu Karere" which means "bird messenger" lifted off at 2:28pm local time from Great Mercury Island near the Coramandel's in New Zealand's north island.

Mark Rocket, director of the company, who recently became the first New Zealander to book a space tourist flight on Virgin Atlantic, was eccstatic with the launch which went perfectly to plan.

Perhaps New Zealanders have abandoned their fruitless attempts to whack the Australians in cricket and have set the bar a little higher.

The slim 6 metre long rocket is designed to carry small scientific and commercial payloads, and Rocket Labs is currently reaching out to collaborators and investors for future ventures as part of the self-described "dynamic southern hemisphere space industry".

Of particular interest is the, "almost mandatory" these days, carbon footprint assessment and associated green credentials. The ATEA 2 uses only about 14kg Co2 per launch. Equally impressive is the rapid progression from test firing of the Atea 1 booster on October 1st to the launch on Nov 30, this demonstrates a nimble, small, focused operation.

The maximum payload of the ATEA 2 rocket is 70kg suitable for short duration micro-gravity and atmospheric science experiments. To achieve a maximum altitude of 250Klms the payload optimal mass is 25Kgs. Rocket Lab have developed their own hybrid rocket fuel and solid fuel binder. Hybrid 90A is a polymer-based cold castable elastomer developed in conjunction with their program by Technical Director, award winning scientist and CEO Peter Beck. Peter currently hold 5 patents in the US and Europe.

Peter assures me the Kiwis will be 2-1 up when they belt Australia in the Bledisloe Cup (rugby)!

So where to from here, I for one will be following this with interest. Thanks to Mark Rocket for the images from the Rocket Lab website and Peter Beck for the exclusive launch image.

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