Rocket Lab to open a third launch pad — its second in New Zealand

Small-satellite launch company Rocket Lab just officially declared its second launch pad open, but it has already broken ground on a third. The new one will be located in New Zealand on the Mahia peninsula, right next to its first launch pad at the company’s original launch facility — which is already the first and only privately owned and operated rocket launch facility on Earth.

Rocket Lab’s new launch pad at Launch Complex-1 (LC-1) will provide it with the ability to launch with even more frequency. Already, the company intends its LC-1 to be the locus of its rapid response and high-volume business, while its new launch pad on Wallops Island in Virginia is primarily designed to unlock access to clients who require U.S.-based launch operations from American providers (Rocket Lab is now officially headquartered in LA).

The company has been doing a lot of work to increase its ability to launch multiple missions in quick succession — this year, it unveiled a new room-sized carbon composite manufacturing robot that can turn parts of its Electron launch vehicle construction process, which used to take weeks, into something that is done in just hours. It’s also now in the process of developing a way to recover the first-stage booster of Electron, which would save it even more time and money on building new ones between missions.

Ultimately, Rocket Lab wants to get turnaround time between missions to mere days, and having two active pads at the same site will mean it has a lot more flexibility to do things like bumping a customer up the queue should conditions allow, or adding a new customer with tight timelines on an ad hoc basis.