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Rocket Lab’s controversial payload set for launch

Rocket Lab's most controversial Mahia launch to date is scheduled to take place from tomorrow.

The US-based space company will open daily launch windows from 11.20am tomorrow through to March 31.

The mission, dubbed They Go Up So Fast, will deploy a range of satellites for commercial and government satellite operators, and place a next-generation Photon spacecraft in orbit to build spacecraft heritage ahead of Rocket Lab's mission to the Moon for NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) later this year.

However, it is the inclusion of the US Army's Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC)payload named Gunsmoke-J that has stirred controversy.

Although Rocket Lab has previously pointed out the payload is a test satellite and not a weapon, a media release from the US Army last year said Gunsmoke-J was a joint capability technology demonstration involving a science and technology effort that “will provide new and advanced capabilities to the tactical war-fighters”.

As with all payloads launch from New Zealand, the payload was required to undergo a robust permitting process with the New Zealand Space Agency and was assessed against a number of criteria set out in the Outer Space and High-Altitude Activities Act (OSHAA), and signed off by the Minister for Economic Development.

The Gisborne Herald has applied through the Official Information Act to see the full details of the final approval.