New Zealand test rocket makes it to space but not to orbit

Nothing like the smell of rocket fuel in the morning

Nothing like the smell of rocket fuel in the morning

It's also the world's first successful launch into space from a private launch pad, the company said.

"It has been an incredible day and I'm immensely proud of our talented team", said Peter Beck, CEO and founder of Rocket Lab.

The company, in March valued at more than US$1 billion (NZ$1.42b), has this week been attempting the first test-launch of its Electron rocket.

The test launch, one of three planned, did not carry any actual cargo, but Rocket Lab says eventually the Electron rocket will carry 150kg (331lbs) into orbit. Team delighted. More to follow!' the company announced via Twitter about 4.30pm (2.30pm AEST).

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - California-based company Rocket Lab said Thursday it had launched a test rocket into space from its New Zealand launch pad, although the rocket didn't reach orbit as hoped.

Once the 56-foot-tall rocket has been tested sufficiently, it could be used to put NASA-backed nanosatellites into orbit, and send Moon Express' lander on the first leg of its potentially prize-winning journey to the lunar surface.

It has been created to carry payloads, such as small satellites, to a low orbit. "We're one of a few companies to ever develop a rocket from scratch and we did it in under four years".

The rocket will allow constellations of small satellites to provide services like cheaper internet from space and environmental monitoring, natural disaster prediction and search and rescue services.

With a height of 17 meters and a diameter of 1.2 meters, and with 3D-printed engines, the Electron Rocket is capable of carrying a maximum payload of 225 kilograms, according to Rocket Lab, whose investors include Lockheed Martin Corp.

The objective of the launch is to collect data to inform future tests and commercial launches, making space more accessible in New Zealand. The company said in 2015 that it should be able to offer a launch service for less than $5 million.

Although a New Zealand firm, Rocket Lab's main backers include U.S. companies Kholsa Ventures, Beesemer Venture Partners, Data Collective, Promus Ventures and Lockheed Martin.

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