Rocket Lab successfully launches first test rocket but falls short of orbit
Rocket Lab's world-first test launch has successfully blasted off, making New Zealand the 11th country to launch into space.
But the company will be investigating why the rocket failed to reach orbit.
The company, in March valued at more than US$1 billion (NZ$1.42b), has this week been attempting the first test-launch of its Electron rocket.
After three days of postponements caused by adverse weather, the rocket launched on Thursday from its Mahia Peninsula base in Hawke's Bay.
* Rocket Lab's test launch delayed for third day running
* Rocket Lab test launch postponed a second time
* Heavy winds delay world-first rocket launch at Rocket Lab's NZ launch pad
* Rocket Lab set to test launch its Electron rocket on May 22
* Rocket Lab's first rocket arrives at Mahia Peninsula launch site
* Rocket Lab looks to full testing after ticking final technical box
* And, we are (almost) go for Kiwi Rocket launch in northern Hawke's Bay
Rocket Lab's test launch was a world-first attempt to send a rocket into orbit from a private launch pad.
Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck said Electron launched at 4:20pm, making it one of just a few companies to develop a rocket from scratch.
He said it was a great flight but the rocket did not quite reach orbit.
"We'll be investigating why, however, reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our programme, deliver our customers to orbit and make space open for business."
The company's engineers in Los Angeles and Auckland would now look at more than 25,000 data channels collected before optimising the vehicle.
It planned to do three test launches ahead of its first commercial launch.
Beck said the company had learned so much and would learn more over the coming weeks.
"We're committed to making space accessible and this is a phenomenal milestone in that journey.
"It's been an incredible day and I'm immensely proud of our talented team."
A report from Sapere Research Group in June found Rocket Lab's establishment of a rocket launch industry in New Zealand would contribute between $600m and $1.55b to the economy over the next 20 years.
The company's launch range, which was licensed to launch every 72 hours for the next 30 years, would mean the country would soon become the nation with the highest frequency of space launches anywhere in the world.
Electron, developed by the American-New Zealand aerospace company, was entirely made of carbon-composite that uses a 3D printed engine for its main propulsion system.
It has been designed to carry payloads, such as small satellites, to a low orbit.
The rocket will allow constellations of small satellites to provide services like cheaper internet from space and environmental monitoring, natural disaster prediction and search and rescue services.
Last week, Rocket Lab said it had secured a new customer called Spaceflight, a launch services and mission management provider.
The US company had purchased an Electron rocket to increase the frequency of its rideshare missions, where several small satellites can share the same launch to a specific destination.