16 Oct 2022

Rocket Lab could be used to make war from space - Green Party

2:05 pm on 16 October 2022
The launch site for the Electron rocket at Rocket Lab in Mahia, New Zealand in June 16, 2018.

Rocket Lab has become the centre of New Zealand's space industry. Photo: Kieran Fanning / Rocket Lab / AFP

Critics of Rocket Lab say there is no guarantee its launches for foreign governments will not be used to facilitate the use of nuclear weapons.

New Zealand-based Rocket Lab successfully released Nasa's Capstone spacecraft on a path to the Moon recently, among other missions.

Both the company and the government have denied claims by the Green Party that its launches on behalf of the United States Defense Department could allow it to make war from space.

"Weaponising space is not in our national interest and goes against our international commitments to ensuring peace in space," Teanau Tuiono, the Green Party's spokesperson for security and intelligence, said in a statement.

"The government should put in place clear rules that stop our whenua being used to launch rockets on behalf of foreign militaries."

Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck has gone on the record with media including Newshub and the New Zealand Herald to say that the company would not deal in weapons.

"We're certainly not going to launch weapons or anything that damages the environment or goes and hurts people," he told Newshub last year.

Sonya Smith, a spokesperson for watchdog group Rocket Lab Monitor, said that New Zealand authorities have no power to control what happens after a launch.

"Essentially the policy is saying we intend to do no harm.

"So we think the intentions are good but the reality of the end result is that technology and those payloads is most definitely capable and likely of being used in a war setting."

Smith said the United States Defense Force is open about its plans to use satellites for military goals.

Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash said a new Aerospace Strategy was being opened for public consultation in September.

In that announcement, Nash announced a review into New Zealand's space policy.

"The Space Policy Review is an opportunity for New Zealanders to have their say on the values and policy objectives that inform our government's activities and engagements in space.

"Feedback will contribute toward the development of a new National Space Policy that will capture our values regarding space and inform future space policy development, including any regulatory or legislative changes to the Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act 2017."

Green Party spokesperson for Māori development Elizabeth Kerekere said there needs to be more input into space policy by Māori.

"Tangata whenua have to have a greater say over what happens on their whenua. Rocket Lab's presence in Mahia is an example of tangata whenua being shut out of decision-making processes."

"I will attend the public consultation on the National Space Policy Review in Mahia to support mana whenua," she said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs