back to article New Zealand joins the Space Race

New Zealand has joined the list of spacefaring nations, courtesy of a US-Kiwi startup called Rocket Lab. Founded in New Zealand by CEO/CTO Peter Beck, the company has spent 12 years developing a launch capability for cubesat-sized payloads up to 150 kg for not many millions of dollars. In May last year, the outfit …

Cool...

That's like, totally cool you know.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cool...

Certainly very cool and I enjoyed watching the launch, but will it be a commercial success? Probably not. The problem a rocket this small faces is that its mass to volume ratio is inherently worse that a larger rocket. As such whilst it does put the payload into orbit its a slow/low orbit and a only with a very light payload. Low orbits don't last too long as atmospheric drag pulls the satellite down quickly. I haven't see the parameters of yesterdays flight but I think it only just got into orbit. Commercial success relies on enough people willing to pay for a short low mass flight, and often a ride share is going to be a cheaper solution.

The electrically pumped rocket engine is brilliant but sadly doesn't scale to what you need for a bigger rocket where a pump needs to be phenomenally powerful, so I can't see where they can go from here.

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Re: Cool...

You have to start *somewhere*. This is just the beginning.

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Re: Cool...

The team principal of WindUp F1, the first entrant into F1 to build a team around a clockwork car has been talking about their chances in their inaugural 2018 season.

"Our power levels are somewhat down on the established players and this necessarily has an impact on out top speeds on the longer straights." he explained. But he is optimistic about their future development, saying "You have to start somewhere, and this is just the beginning".

Yes, you have to start and you have to start somewhere. But where and how you start is a significant factor in determining where you can possibly end up, so if you have a long term goal in mind you'd best start with that in mind and have at least some idea of how you will get There from Here.

Just hoping or even believing that "magic will happen" is not a plan.

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Go

Re: Cool...

This was the faster, better, cheaper NASA promised but never delivered years ago. I'd say, look at it like this - orbital space trash is becoming such a problem that even projects like the ISS may not be able to survive the meteoric strikes of continued overpopulation of space. Perhaps it is better to use LEO so that all the trash including the original project is burned up in the earth's atmosphere - end of problem!

The other advantages were already mentioned above, and the lifting tools and mini-satellites themselves will be cheap enough to be expendable, but still make more than enough data to make money. I think it is a genius move; especially since, I assume New Zealand is even closer to equatorial launch than any other major space launch center. It is way easier and uses less fuel to get the same result.

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Re: Cool...

"I assume New Zealand is even closer to equatorial launch"

Not on your nelly. The launch site is 39degrees from the Equator at https://www.google.co.nz/maps/place/39%C2%B015'41.5%22S+177%C2%B051'57.2%22E/@-39.1327661,178.2181487,7.5z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d-39.261514!4d177.86588

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Re: Cool...

I think they want to scale up to multiple launches per week, rather than heavier payloads. Getting to higher orbits is something the satellite itself can manage if it needs to. It probably needs an engine for station keeping anyway.

Ride share may be cheaper, but you need to find someone going to the same orbit and willing to share. As costs come down (eg, SpaceX), the primary payload owner becomes less willing to share because the money saved becomes too small to justify the risk and complication.

BFR is supposed to cost under $10m per launch, which doesn't leave much room for anyone else to be significantly cheaper. However, even if that is achieved, the opportunity costs of using BFR for cube sats may make it uneconomical. That is, SpaceX will always be able to make more money by launching something else instead. So Rocket Lab might have a bright future just doing what they are doing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cool...

I've now got details of the orbit .... and it's pretty good. Even better they had a little unannounced kick stage that has roughly circularized the orbits of two of the cube sats out to 500km. That's a very healthy and stable orbit, so I retract most of my earlier comments.

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Splash down target - Canberra

Phase one complete. Now we need a nuclear program and a couple of warheads. Then we can tell Australia we're not taking their s*** anymore.

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Re: Splash down target - Canberra

It would be so easy for Australia to also have a space industry - just do what the Kiwi's did: go to the industry and ask them what they need. Then do it.

That's pretty much what your mob did.

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Re: Splash down target - Canberra

Most of the Aussies I know would probably applaud a strike on the ACT - what would the Godzone reaction be to a "Ballistic Beehive Buster"?

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Re: Splash down target - Canberra

"it would be easy for Australia to create a rocket industry"

Maybe. But I'll bet you a years income that Australia's licensing rules for rocket launches would be 10 x more onerous than NZ's are (which allow for one launch per 72 hours if so desired)*.

*based on observing the differences in rules/regulations between the two countries.

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Mushroom

Re: Splash down target - Canberra

> what would the Godzone reaction be to a "Ballistic Beehive Buster"?

Give us advance warning so we can be sure parliament is in session at the time

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Mushroom

Re: Splash down target - Canberra

Bugger off. Bomb their electorate offices.

Why do you want to punish us Canberrans when it was you idiots who elected the bastards in the first place? All we did was try to keep the country running.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Splash down target - Canberra

Please do - many Australians will assist, since we are also sick of the s*** coming out of that ruined sheep paddock.

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Devil

Re: Splash down target - Canberra

No need to, they will just claim it as an "Aussie" milestone anyway. Wouldn't even be unusual for Australia to do that.

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Joke

Now we need a nuclear program and a couple of warheads.

It's like the India / Pakistan border dispute.

Over sheep.

Baaaaaah.

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Re: Splash down target - Canberra

It would be so easy for Australia to also have a space industry

Australia had a "space industry" half a century ago (WRESAT), so the fact that there isn't one now seems more a matter of apathy than lack of capability?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Splash down target - Canberra

"It would be so easy for Australia to also have a space industry"

Not sure you have the required educated people, I've seen neighbours and you only have one doctor in the entire country.

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Re: Splash down target - Canberra

Huh! Just when we were thinking of telling the Army 'at ease' while your first husband is preggers -

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JDX
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Re: It would be so easy for Australia to also have a space industry

With the vast, uninhabited interior, isn't Oz a great location for space stuff? If it crashes or blows up, nobody would be at risk.

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Two great nations divided by a common language

I was taught long ago that the wisest thing to say to anyone with an antipodean accent was "Which part of New Zealand are you from?"

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Happy

Re: Splash down target - Canberra

@AC

I've seen neighbours and you only have one doctor in the entire country.

The rest are in the air...

https://www.flyingdoctor.org.au/

there was also an occasional appearance of a Lady Doctor in "Chopper Squad", played by Jeanie Drynan

http://www.classicaustraliantv.com/ChopperSquad.htm

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WTF?

Re: Splash down target - Canberra

Did I read the word "nuclear" - New Zealand won't even let a nuclear sub dock anywhere near its shores! I think they are one of the most anti-nuclear nations going. Of course, I know you were just joking.

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Re: It would be so easy for Australia to also have a space industry

"With the vast, uninhabited interior, isn't Oz"

But that would make Kweeland even better, with its' 'vast, uninhabited exterior'

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Mushroom

Re: Splash down target - Canberra

@JCitizen

I think they are one of the most anti-nuclear nations going

Have to see their point of view if countries from the other side of the world chose to come over to your side of the world and do nuclear tests

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Tin

Nin

Ight

Sivin

Sex

Fayv

Thri

Teh

Wen...

Blist Off

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Headmaster

What happened to four?

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Sex

Fayv

?

Thri

Teh

no 'fir'

is it an odd word, like 5 in welsh being pimp ?

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Anonymous Coward

Will they call the rocket "Felcun Ux"?

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Good point

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We're not south african

the uxxent is all wrong.

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Pint

What happened to four?

Australians wouldn't give a XXXX...

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Bronze badge

Sex? I thunk you min sux.

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ARSE recieves new mission

now we have to build rockets if only to continue the game of one up with the kiwis

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Re: ARSE recieves new mission

if only to continue the game of one up with the kiwis

makes for a welcome change from sheep one upmanship

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Coat

Lots of fun aside. Two things to note about Rocket Labs achievement

1) First CFRP LOX tank flown to orbit ever

2 )First rocket engines powered by battery driven electric propellant pumps ever

That does not just make them the State of the Art.

That makes them the Start of the Art.

Something to think about.

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Re: Lots of fun aside. Two things to note about Rocket Labs achievement

Make that three things.

3D-printed engine.

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Unhappy

Make that three things. 3D-printed engine.

I'm not sure about that.

AFAIK SX have used 3D printed parts for some time and the Masten "Broadsword" (Methalox 65Klb dual fuel & LOX expander) is meant to have been entirely 3D printed.

If you mean first fully 3d printed engine to orbit then that also would be a "Start of the Art."

So much in rocket engineering has been done (at least in part) before that you have to drawn the boundaries for truly new innovation quite carefully.

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BTW if anyone is wondering why launch from the Far North of Aotearoa? Well, the skies up in the Winterless North are uncommonly clear and secondly they are far enough away from Auckland International Airport that they don't often have to worry about overflying jets closing launch windows.

So, once they get it reliable it will be reliable in terms of when it can launch and technical snafus will not put the launch back weeks while they wait for the weather to change.

it is also no more susceptible to tropical storms with hurricane force winds than Canaveral or French Guyana and possibly a bit less. Cyclones only hit NZ very occasionally and they are usually underpowered by the cold seas by the time they get far enough south to hit us.

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The Mahia Penisula is in the middle (on a north/south axis) of the North Island, between Gisborne and Napier. not in the Far North (Northland). Same reasons though.

I do wonder if North Queensland woud have some suitable sites, or would the risks to the Great Barrier Reef be too much?

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Unhappy

What Great Barrier Reef?

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The Mahia Penisula

Which means it projects just far enough out into the Pacific Ocean to make it unlikely that if anything disastrous happens, the pieces are not likely to hit anything on land. There's some other spots on the North and South Islands where that's the case.

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And most important, you want to launch as close to the equator as possible to get that extra speed boost from the rotation of the Earth itself.

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I, for one, would welcome our new nuclear space Kiwi overlords.

(Would make a change from the lizard people.)

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Joke

Move over NK

Just a thought (sorry)

Will Kim Dotcom take over from Kim Jong-un?

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Re: Move over NK

That thought has kept me awake at nights. The wholesale slandering of the Iranian government over its nuclear ambitions indicated just how seriously to take the US when it comes to supporting other people's aspirations re nuclear power - the reactors the Iranians have are US in origin, but you'd never find that out from the 24/7 coverage of what the US govt alleges Iran is planning.

How long until New Zealand and the US fall out over some stupid thing and the Half-Wit in Chief by the Grace of the US Electorate decides that New Zealand in some way, form or other, is a threat to the US because it has a space industry?

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Re: Move over NK

You have forgotten that NZ and the US fell out big time over NZ's nuclear free legislation way back in the mid '80s. Since that policy and legislation are still untouched (a shibboleth of NZ politics) and what happens in the ANZUS alliance is the Aussies exercise with the Yanks and then they Aussies exercise with the Kiwis teaching them how to interact with the nuclear armed and powered Yanks in an emergency.

Sure NZ is still in 5-eyes for entirely local pragmatic reasons and the US still runs Operation Deep Freeze to the Ice from Christchurch airport but that is so NZ can piggyback on it.

Otherwise NZ foreign policy is pretty much non-aligned. We have friends all over including in the Middle East (we sell them sheepmeat, butter and agritech) and they keep electing us to the Security Council etc at the UN. NZ was one of the countries in the SC who brokered that resolution condemning Israel that Obama didn't veto just before he left office.

Aside from it being the right thing to do NZ and Israeli relations are a bit frosty after Mossad agents were caught using cloned NZ passports, again.

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Re: Move over NK

No these days we have exercises with the US on a semi-regular basis, just not as regular as the Aussies. I've seen plenty of photos (for example) of our troops on exercises with US Marines in Hawaii and California.

Obviously there's very little in the way of Air Force exercises (not having an air force will do that).

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Battery Powered

Re: The Rutherford engines are fed by electric motors

- ...and the electric motors are powered by three batteries. In the video during second stage firing, you can see 2 of the 3 batteries being ejected when they have been exhausted (just after a "hot swap" comment), to reduce the second stage mass and allow a heavier payload / higher acceleration.

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