Airways ready for future space launches


Air navigation services provider Airways is gearing up to handle regular rocket launches through New Zealand airspace following Rocket Lab’s successful test flight of its Electron Orbital Launch Vehicle.

Airways has an agreement with Rocket Lab to provide air traffic services to facilitate its ongoing test and commercial operations from the world’s first private orbital launch site on Māhia Peninsula. Rocket Lab has announced plans to ramp-up its launch schedule following the successful flight and could launch one rocket every two weeks by 2019.

With an advanced launch services program already in place, along with New Zealand’s relatively uncongested airspace and light regulatory environment, Airways is well positioned to support this level of activity, CEO Graeme Sumner says.

“We see significant opportunities in New Zealand for space based applications and we are doing everything we can to support that, both for Rocket Lab and other launch providers who may operate here in the future.”

Airways New Zealand has enabled more than 120 stratospheric balloon launches over the past four years for organisations including NASA and Google.

Electron lifted-off from New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula at 14:43 local time, on January 21. It reached orbit and deployed customer payloads 8 minutes and 31 seconds later. A ‘special use airspace,’ managed by Airways controllers, was put in place around the rocket for the launch protecting the area from other aircraft and limiting disruption to other airspace users.

“The success of the launch establishes New Zealand place in the space industry and we’re proud to have supported Rocket Lab to get to this point.” Mr Sumner says.