New Zealand rockets into the space age on the back of overseas investment.
Overseas investment has seen the launch of the space industry in New Zealand – joining a select group of countries sending satellites into orbit.
Rocket Lab is a New Zealand incorporated company that designs and launches rockets and satellites. With its parent company being American-based Rocket Lab USA, Rocket Lab required consent from the Overseas Investment Office to lease land at Māhia Peninsula for a rocket launch site, and on the Chatham Islands for a tracking station.
Following Rocket Lab’s first test launch from Māhia in 2017, New Zealand became the newest member of an elite club of just 11 countries able to launch to space. The launch was the first mission in the world to lift off from a fully private orbital launch range.
In 2018-2019, the space sector made an economic contribution to New Zealand of $1.69 billion, supporting an estimated 5,000 full-time equivalent roles.
In its application, Rocket Lab highlighted a strong interest and commitment to education in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. This has seen the company set up the Rocket Lab scholarship, directly supporting students in the Hawke’s Bay region to pursue a career in engineering through a $20,000 contribution to their study fees.
Rocket Lab’s 400-employee strong operation in New Zealand has also opened the door for engineering students to enter the space industry locally, an opportunity previously only available overseas. The universities of Canterbury and Auckland have both launched rocket-focused engineering courses, and Rocket Lab offer supervision, mentoring and internships to the students.