Oamaru joins the space race

Sub-orbital flights could be taking off from Oamaru later in 2020 after an aerospace company signed a deal with the local council.

Kiwi-Dutch company Dawn Aerospace is looking to set up a base in Oamaru, using a reusable space plane to take satellites into orbit.

"We would start operating our Mk2 vehicle, launching that, doing sub-orbital flights to space, testing satellite equipment, doing high altitude experiments," said Dawn Aerospace General Manager, James Powell.

The company has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Waitaki District Council to investigate the viability of its plans.

The intention is to set up at Oamaru Airport, which was used for scheduled commercial operations in 2006.

Oamaru would be the latest remote New Zealand location to join the space race.

RocketLab is based in Mahia, there's a kiwi space radar in Naseby and Awarua near Bluff has long been used to monitor international rocket launches.

Dawn Aerospace 's philosophy is for a more sustainable aerospace.

"Flying is something as complex and as expensive as a rocket once or even 10 times or 100 times, it's not very economically efficient. 

"So, using that hundreds and thousands of times gives you much better asset utilisation," said Powell. 

Dawn's Mk2 plane could be making test flights in Oamaru by the middle of 2020.