A new rocket fuel and propulsion system developed in Auckland and tested on Great Mercury Island early today has attracted keen interest from the United States.
Auckland-based Rocket Lab has developed and successfully tested a new rocket fuel and propulsion system that launched a small rocket 10 kilometres into the atmosphere of the Hauraki Gulf around 07:30am this morning. An influential audience including Trade Minister Mr Tim Groser, international space and rocket propulsion research agencies and US and Australian propulsion and space experts including the US Navy Office of Naval Research, Global, and Lockheed viewed the test launch.
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said the test was aimed at proving the efficiency of the rocket propulsion system and the ability to modify the thrust levels to optimise the range and accuracy of the rocket and increase the overall performance over the current state of the art systems.
"We weren’t aiming for a great height, just proof that the quite revolutionary fuel and propulsion systems we’ve developed have the capability and capacity to carry small payloads into space in a much more efficient manner," says Mr Beck.
"The data and telemetry we captured today prove the success of the project. and the performance of the new propulsion system . We have achieved a major advancement in rocket propulsion today using our novel Viscous Liquid Monopropellant system.
"There are a number of applications for this - including launching telecommunications satellites - and increasing demand. The beauty of small rockets is they can carry these single payloads much cheaper and we can schedule launches much quicker than is possible in the US and Europe."
The Office of Naval Research has been involved in funding the project for more than two years and London-based Associate Director Global, David Neyland said the test had generated great interest.
"It was a beautiful launch, said Mr Neyland. "The magic of what is going on here is the propulsion and fuel technology being explored is something that hasn’t been looked at for the past 50 or 60 years.
"The flexibility to carry out this kind of research in New Zealand is magic and what gives the leverage to this project."
The Trade Minister Mr Tim Groser, said this kind of hi-tech research was just the type of project New Zealand needed more of in US trade relationships.
"Peter Beck and his small team of just six people have attracted the attention of some of the United States’ leading aerospace industry players with leading edge research work produced in a small downtown Auckland laboratory."
Mr Beck says the rocket was recovered from the range area off Great Mercury Island shortly after launch.
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