NZ's Rocket Lab 'leading the whole industry globally', CEO claims

Rocket Lab hopes to keep increasing the number of launches it can do following another successful mission.

Seven small satellites were lofted into low-Earth orbit on Saturday, in the US-NZ company's seventh Electron launch - the third this year from its launchpad on Mahia Peninsula. 

But CEO Peter Beck says not all future launches will be from New Zealand, with construction of the company's new launchpad in the US state of Virginia underway.

"That gives us the ability to launch out of the US," Beck told Newshub. "Mahia will remain our high-frequency, high-volume launchpad, but it gives us more launch availability [for] different launches."

The new site will be operational by the end of the year. New Zealand skies are generally preferred by Rocket Lab because they're relatively empty compared to other parts of the world.

Beck says he's proud of what his team has achieved so far.

"We're really leading the whole industry globally with our small launch vehicle in Electron... At the moment we're launching nearly once a month. If we can increase that to once every two weeks or even once a week, we'll be leading the world with respect to the number of launches and payloads." 

Saturday's launch included satellites for Earth-imaging company Blacksky, the Melbourne Space Program and the US military's Special Operations Command.

Beck said the US military's satellites were for research, not warfare. They were signed off by the NZ Space Agency and minister David Parker, NZME reports.