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Rocket Lab has developed a flexible launch vehicle that offers cost-effective and environmentally-benign access to space. atea-1-new-zealandĀtea-1 is a two-stage sub-orbital vehicle capable of carrying payloads of 2 kg up to 150 km altitude. The new launch vehicle offers significant advantages in cost and is aimed at opening up access to space for scientific research at an unprecedented level.

The first launch took place on November 30th, 2009 from Mercury Island, New Zealand. View our news page and the Ātea-1 photo gallery.

Rocket Lab has taken the approach to provide the international science community with a quick-response, mobile solution with high flexibility in mind. It can be launched by users on existing launch infrastructure or Rocket Lab can provide complete launch and recovery services.

The Ātea-1 leverages Rocket Lab’s innovative propulsion technologies in the form of a hybrid booster. This engine uses a polymer based fuel with liquid Nitrous Oxide. The engine is capable of producing a peak thrust of 1,550 lbf for up to 14.5s, resulting in a total impulse of approximately 22,500 lbf-s.

The new launch vehicle demonstrates and showcases Rocket Lab’s wide ranging and innovative capabilities in developing rocket engines, launch vehicles and associated subsystems. The vehicle utilises composite materials intensively for flight structures, pressure vessels and the combustion chamber. This results in an extremely mass efficient vehicle – weighing less than 65kg at launch (with propellant). The entire vehicle has an inert, dry mass of less than 20kg.

The standard Ātea-1 features a comprehensive in-house developed avionics package, recovery systems for land or sea, power supply and payload-avionics interface. Some of the many advantages of this vehicle include:

  • Inert shipping – no solid fuels or explosives
  • ITAR free – Rocket Lab is able to export to customers from any friendly nation
  • Land or sea-based recovery is possible
  • Payload recovery – A GPS transceiver uses the Inmarsat B satellite constellation to communicate the launch vehicle
Parameter Performance
Maximum Altitude Up to 150 km
Maximum Diameter 150 mm
Length 6 m
Launch Mass (wet) 60 kg
Max. Payload Mass 2 kg
Max. Launch G-Force 15 g’s
Max. Velocity > Mach 5
Standard Payload Size Ø 58mm x 900mm L


View the video clip below of the Ātea-1 rocket launch on November 30th, 2009 from Great Mercury Island, New Zealand.

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Related Links

Contact Rocket Lab for payload enquiries, view the Ātea-1 photo gallery, read more about Ātea-2 and payload options, or return to Rocket Lab Programs.