Tūranga-nui-a-Kiwa – The New Zealand space sector is set to star in NASA’s capstone moon mission with Rocket Lab launching a satellite to the moon from New Zealand, possibly tomorrow night, depending on the weather.
It also marks the lift-off of a separate NASA-NZ lunar research project, the New Zealand Space Agency manager Andrew Johnson says.
The launch is scheduled for 9:55pm, tomorrow night. If organisers need to stand down for weather or technical delays, as is common for launches globally, they have aback up opportunities through to July 27.
Rocket Lab will launch its historic lunar mission from Mahia, near Gisborne, in support of NASA’s artemis programme which plans to return humans to the lunar surface, renewing human exploration of the moon and progressing towards human exploration of Mars.
The mission will test the lunar orbit for Gateway, a planned moon-orbiting outpost that is part of NASA’s programme.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has an agreement with NASA that has enabled a University of Canterbury-led research collaboration with NASA to track moon-orbiting spacecraft, as part of NASA’s capstone mission.
The research aims to help validate research for a way of tracking spacecraft orbiting the moon or between high earth orbit and the moon. Tracking will be increasingly important as more countries and private actors send spacecraft to the moon.
The research team which includes contributors from the University of Auckland and the University of New South Wales, Australia, will attempt to track the spacecraft from observatories in Tekapo and Canberra.
Multiple lunar missions are already planned to launch, starting from this year.
New Zealand’s participation is helping Kiwi researchers and space sector companies to participate in the mission. The Aotearoa space sector is worth over $1.7 billion per annum with a space manufacturing industry that generates around $247 million a year in revenue.