Kiwis In Space Race

A little Kiwi company that can got a rocket into space today, reports PAT PILCHER.

 

Sometimes it is almost too easy to forget that little old New Zealand bats way above its pint-sized weight.

Today us Kiwis can stand proud. New Zealand based Rocket Labs not only carried the torch for New Zealand pride, they threw the bastard into orbit. This is thanks to the successful launch of its second Electron test rocket from on the Mahia Peninsula.

The launch has been a long time coming. It was subject to many delays, hence the rocket’s name of ‘Still Testing’. The launch happened at 2.45pm today (Sunday). Still Testing roared upwards off the launch pad on a pillar of smoke and flame. It reached orbit at 2.53pm

Not only is the rocket one of the first from New Zealand, but it is also the first NZ-launched rocket to reach orbit. While an earlier rocket launched, it failed to reach orbit.

The launch comes after six frustrating attempts got scrubbed owing to a range of issues. These included high winds in the upper atmosphere, as well as other technical issues.

The launch sees three satellites placed in an orbit around earth. One will capture images of earth while the other two will track weather and shipping.

As unlikely as rockets launching in New Zealand might seem, Kiwis have played a pivotal role in space exploration. Back in the late 1950s and much to the US’s consternation, the then Soviet Union launched Sputnik. This was at the height of the cold war. As such, the Americans had to show the world that they also had the technological nous to get a payload into space. They wasted no time. A mere three months later, Explorer 1 launched. William Pickering, born in Wellington, played a key role in making this happen. He would later go on to head up a Nasa offshoot, the Jet Propulsion Laboratories.

The little Kiwi company that could (also known as Rocket Labs) say they’re planning a further three test launches before moving onto commercial launches, their aim being to place satellites into orbit at costs far lower than those of their bigger competitors. Well Done Rocket Labs!

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