WELLINGTON, July 29 (Xinhua) -- A United States aerospace company is aiming to make New Zealand one of the exclusive group of countries with a space program by promising a revolutionary new satellite-carrying rocket for a fraction of the current satellite launch costs.
Rocket Lab announced Tuesday that it had developed a light- weight, carbon-composite rocket, named Electron, at its Auckland plant and hoped to offer small satellite launches for less than 5 million U.S. dollars, compared with a current average price of 133 million U.S. dollars.
The company, which has received research and development funding from the government, was being backed by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Khosla Ventures, Rocket Lab founder and New Zealander Peter Beck said in a statement.
The lead-time for businesses to launch a satellite would be cut from years to just weeks and the company already had commercial commitments for 30 launches, said Beck.
At 18 meters in length, 1 meter in diameter and weighing more than 10 tones, Electron would be the first vehicle of its class capable of delivering payloads up to 100 kg into low Earth orbit at an altitude of about 160 km.
Businesses faced a severe barrier in launching satellites as rockets had remained prohibitively large and expensive, despite the trend for satellites to become smaller, more capable and more affordable, he said.
"Along with benefits for commercial enterprises, cheaper and faster space access has the potential to lead to more accurate weather prediction, global high speed Internet access, as well as real-time monitoring of the impacts of human development," said Beck.
New Zealand was in an ideal launch position for a variety of different types of orbits and plans were underway to build a space port at several potential locations.
Powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene, Electron would have a lift-off mass of 10,500 kg and a possible top speed of 27,500 km per hour.