Space company Rocket Lab has announced it will launch an unmanned mission to the moon from New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula later this year.
An Electron rocket will put a NASA satellite called CAPSTONE into orbit around the Earth, before its Photon spacecraft will “separate and use its 3D-printed HyperCurie engine to provide in-space propulsion to allow CAPSTONE to break free of Earth’s gravity and set a course for the moon”, Rocket Lab said on Saturday.
It will be the first moon mission ever launched from New Zealand. The original plan was to take off from a Rocket Lab launch site in the US state of Virginia, but this was changed to Mahia to take advantage of a launch window opening up in the fourth quarter of 2021.
“Flexible isn’t a word usually used to describe lunar missions but operating two launch complexes gives us the freedom to select a site that best meets mission requirements and schedule,” said Peter Beck, the Kiwi who founded Rocket Lab.
“Our team is immensely proud to be launching one of the first pathfinding missions to support NASA’s goal of delivering a sustainable and robust presence on the moon.”