Inspire

New Zealand Just Sent a 3D-Printed Rocket Into Space

A new leader in the space race just arrived.

A new leader in the space race just arrived in town. That’s right – US company Rocket Lab has sent a rocket into space.

Not just any rocket either, but a 3D-printed one. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, the company, Rocket Lab, developed the rocket from scratch in less than four years.

Dubbed the Electron, the test launch took place on New Zealand’s remote Mahia Peninsula. The battery-powered rocket is just 16.7 metres long, and cost next to nothing to make.

The Electron is also the first small rocket to ever launch from a private company, and its small stature is incredibly promising for the future of affordable space exploration. Peter Beck, CEO and founder of Rocket Lab, said that he is “literally over the moon” about the launch’s success.

While the rocket didn’t reach orbit (the company are investigating the issue currently), it did make it past Earth’s atmosphere, a tremendous feat for a privately-launched rocket whose engine was printed in 24 hours.

This marks the first of three major test flights set to launch in 2017. Rocket Lab are aiming to achieve 50 launches per year “at full production”, though this could rise to 120 launches. Compared to just 22 from the US and 82 internationally in 2016, the benefit is clear.

The young company has already received funding and serious attention from NASA, Moon Express, Spire and others, meaning New Zealand may well be on the brink of making a very serious mark in the space race.

(Lead image: Rocket Lab)