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In this May 19, 2017 photo supplied by Rocket Lab, engineers work with the Electron rocket at the launch site on the Mahia Peninsula in the North Island of New Zealand. New Zealand has never had a space program but could soon be launching commercial rockets more often than the United States. That's if the plans of California-based company Rocket Lab work out. Founded by New Zealander Peter Beck, the company was last week given approval by the Federal Aviation Authority to conduct three test launches from a remote peninsula and the first could come as early as Monday. (Rocket Lab via AP)
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New Zealand space launch has nation reaching for the stars

In this May 19, 2017 photo supplied by Rocket Lab, engineers work with the Electron rocket at the launch site on the Mahia Peninsula in the North Island of New Zealand. New Zealand has never had a space program but could soon be launching commercial rockets more often than the United States. That's if the plans of California-based company Rocket Lab work out. Founded by New Zealander Peter Beck, the company was last week given approval by the Federal Aviation Authority to conduct three test launches from a remote peninsula and the first could come as early as Monday. (Rocket Lab via AP)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand has never had a space program but could soon be launching commercial rockets more often than the United States.

That’s if the plans of California-based company Rocket Lab work out.

Founded by New Zealander Peter Beck, the company was last week given official approval to conduct three test launches from a remote peninsula in the South Pacific nation. Rocket Lab is planning the first launch of its Electron rocket sometime from Monday, depending on conditions.

Rocket Lab hopes to begin commercial launches later this year and eventually launch one rocket every week. It plans to keep costs low by using lightweight, disposable rockets with 3D-printed engines.

It’s a different plan than some other space companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which uses larger rockets to carry bigger payloads.

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