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New Zealand start-up successfully launches a rocket

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Spaceflight start-up in New Zealand announced it successfully launched a rocket from its own launch pad on the North Island.

The launch, in the Mahia Peninsula, has been marketed as a major advance in the space industry that will allow smaller companies to launch satellites in to space at a relative fraction of the cost, ABC News reports.

“Space is now open for business,” the American-New Zealand company Rocket Lab said.

Though the launch was only a test, Rocket Lab managed to launch three satellites into orbit for tracking shipping, weather and imaging.

It has been able to lower the cost of rocket launches because the payload is now much smaller than it was in the past.

Rocket Lab said it would be launching every week at a relatively cheap $US4.9 million a pop.

“Rocket Lab is a small start-up, a few people and a dream— it really shows what can happen in the modern day space area,” Australian National University astrophysicist Brad Tucker said.

Professor Tucker said it was no longer necessary to be a big government agency with a huge bankroll to pull off such a launch.

Australia ‘not far behind’

Michael Davis, chair of the Space Industry Association of Australia, said within the business models pursued by satellite companies there had been a “big revolution”.

“Instead of paying hundreds of millions for a very big satellite in geostationary orbit, we now have new constellations of smaller — what we call nano satellites — in low earth orbit at much lower cost,” he said.

Unlike big companies like Elon Musk’s Space X, which use government launch sites, Rocket Labs said it was the first company to launch its own rocket from its own launch pad.