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Kiwis prep 'permissive' space laws to help Rocket Lab get off the ground

Rocket Lab scores launch pad on North Island

New Zealand's government has announced plans to relax the regulatory rules surrounding commercial space ventures, in a move it hopes will help local outfits and attract launches to the country.

In the short term, economic development minister Steven Joyce wants to make sure regulation doesn't get in the way as the Kiwis' home-grown Rocket Lab preps its first launches.

All being well, Rocket Lab wants to light the blue touchpaper under its first rockets at its newly-secured launch facility on the North Island, at the Mahia Peninsula.

The government says it's going to introduce an Outer Space and High Altitude Activities bill, sign a technology safeguards agreement with the US (now home to Rocket Labs' parent company), and join two United Nations initiatives: the Convention on Registration of Objects launched into Outer Space, and the Committee for the Peaceful Use of Outer Space.

New Zealand's Ministry of Business will be in charge of the regime, and the minister will have the go-or-no-go power to license space activity.

Rocket Lab launched its US presence in 2014 to attract American VC funding, and last year signed an agreement with NASA to get access to its resources.

The company is no SpaceX: it's leaving the heavy lifting to others, instead working on a system to deliver large numbers of small, cheap satellites to space.

Joyce expects the legislation to get through parliamentary committees during the second half of the year. ®

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