Kiwi launches world-first cheap rocket

A New Zealand aerospace company, Rocket Lab, has developed a world-first rocket to deliver satellites into orbit cheaper and faster than ever before.

A Kiwi entrepreneur has rocketed into the records with the world's smallest, fastest cut-price spacecraft designed to send satellites into space.

Aerospace company Rocket Lab has unveiled its carbon-composite launch vehicle, named Electron, at its facility in south Auckland.

Measuring just 18 metres in length but reaching speeds of 27,500km/h, Electron will be the smallest, fastest rocket to ever hit space.

But Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck is most excited about another figure, the $NZ5 million ($A4.65 million) price tag which confirms Electron as the cheapest satellite carrier in the world.

It is designed to deliver payloads up to 100kg into low earth orbits, taking advantage of a new trend of putting smaller satellites into space.

The commercial world is clearly enthused. Electron's first 30 launches have been pre-booked by paying customers.

Mr Beck, who founded the US firm in 2007, said that rockets have remained prohibitively large and expensive, despite the trend for satellites to become smaller, more capable and affordable.

"Our vision at Rocket Lab is to make space commercially viable and more accessible than ever before, doing what the Ford Model T did for consumer automobiles," he said.

"This technology will really open space for business."

Geographically, New Zealand is ideally positioned for launches into different types of orbits, with the company investigating several locations to build a space port on home soil.

"This will bring an innovative and exciting new industry to New Zealand with economic benefits at both a regional and national level," Mr Beck said.


* Lift off mass: 10,500kg

* Propellant mass: 9200kg

* Propellants: Liquid oxygen and kerosene

* Length: 18m

* Diameter: 1m

* Top speed: 27,500km/h

* Maximum engine thrust : 146,000 Newtons (14.8 tonnes)

* Engine equivalent power: 530,000hp

* Nominal orbit: 500km circular sun synchronous

* Nominal payload: 110kg.

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