Technology & Science

N.Z. company fires rocket

A New Zealand company sent a rocket into space Monday in what it claimed was the first private missile launch in the Southern Hemisphere.

A New Zealand company sent a rocket into space Monday in what it claimed was the first privately financed missile launch into space in the Southern Hemisphere.

The six-metre, 60-kilogram rocket, called Atea-1, reached an altitude of 100 kilometres and spent 20 minutes in flight before crashing in the Pacific Ocean. ((CBC))
About 50 people gathered on Great Mercury Island, off North Island, to watch the launch of the six-metre, 60-kilogram Atea-1.

The launch company, Rocket Lab Ltd., developed it without government money.

The rocket burned for 20 seconds to reach its target speed of up to Mach 5, or more than 6,000 km/h, reaching an altitude of at least 100 kilometres. It spent about 20 minutes in the atmosphere before splashing down into the South Pacific.

The feeling after the launch was "profound" and one of "pure elation, incredible," company director Mark Rocket said. "A lot of people were crying. It was really dramatic."

Rocket Lab is hoping to provide space launch facilities for business ventures and scientists, including weather researchers. It has indicated no plans for launching people into space.

The company was waiting for the payload's GPS signal to be picked up, so it can be retrieved and have its data recovered in the next two days.

The team would not know how high the rocket had risen, but with its new nose cone, Rocket — who legally changed his name recently from Stevens — speculated it could have gone as high as 150 kilometres.

After the group recovers the payload, the next step would be planning the next launch, he said.