Gabe Newell launching Half-Life's Gnome Chompski into space for Starship Hospital

A garden gnome built by Weta Workshop is being launched into space by Rocket Lab to raise money for Auckland's Starship Hospital.

The charity event is being put together by billionaire Gabe Newell - co-founder of gaming company Valve - who has been staying in New Zealand since early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The launch will take place sometime within two weeks of November 15 and be livestreamed on Rocket Lab's website.

For every person who watches the livestream, Newell will donate $1 to the Paediatric Intensive Care unit at Starship.

"This money may someday help achieve Newell's ultimate dream - launching a children’s hospital into space - but in the interim will be used for more practical hospital-related purposes," Valve says in a press release.

"[Newell has] called Auckland his temporary home and has been looking for a way to help the economy and the community that sheltered him (or at least hasn't kicked him out yet)."

It's not the only way Newell has sought to give back to the people of New Zealand - he previously organised free concert We Love Aotearoa, which was postponed due to pandemic lockdowns.

The Rocket Lab mission - Flight 16 using rocket 'Electron' - will carry several satellites into orbit for purposes such as telecommunications, equipment tests and an experiment in earthquake detection by students at the University of Auckland.

The gnome is a replica of Gnome Chompski, which has featured in Valve games Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Left 4 Dead 2. A special achievement was given to players who managed to take the gnome to the end of one particular game and launch him into space.

"Manufactured with support from multi-award-winning design studio Weta Workshop, the unique space component is additively manufactured from titanium and printed in the shape of Half-Life gaming icon Gnome Chompski," says Rocket Lab's website.

"The mission serves as an homage to the innovation and creativity of gamers worldwide, and also aims to test and qualify a novel 3D printing technique that could be employed for future spacecraft components.

"The 150mm gnome will remain attached to the Kick Stage during all mission phases and will burn up upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere during the de-orbiting process."

Gnome Chompski's ride with Electron will launch from Mahia in Hawke's Bay.

Updates on the timing of the launch will be posted on Rocket Lab's website.