Rocket Lab Facing Troubles with Payload Permit as Concerns Increase about the Gunsmoke-J Payload

29th Mar 2021
Rocket Lab Facing Troubles with Payload Permit as Concerns Increase about the Gunsmoke-J Payload

For some time, New Zealand has had legislation prohibiting any nuclear projects in the country, including rocket launches carrying such weapons. Concerns are now being voiced across the country as Rocket Lab continues military launches that are at risk of violating laws. 

However, the company is adamant that this is not the case, and it’s adhering to the legislation in place. None of the satellites has any affiliation with nuclear projects, according to Head of Communications, Morgan Bailey. 

One launch that concerns many people in the upcoming 15th March mission involves the Gunsmoke-J military payload. It’s resulted in an open letter to the PM demanding an investigation into Rocket Lab missions. 

Many different groups are voicing their support for the open letter, including Mahia Peninsula residents, where the satellite launches occur. Others showing support are religious, civic, and peace leaders in the country. 

Currently, many locals are in full support of it, given that it’s a well-known fact the company has strong ties to the US military, and Lockheed Martin that manufactures nuclear weapons. The main concern if the upcoming event could be in breach of the country’s strong laws against nuclear technology.

The Future of Rocket Lab in New Zealand

Calls for the departure of the company from New Zealand are gaining momentum as concerns grow that it could violate the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act of 1987. Upcoming military and similar missions might not be in line with this Act, together with the definition of the payload approved in 2019. 

Those supporting the letter agree that a full review is necessary, and Rocket Lab’s license should be revoked for the time being. If successful, the changes would see all space matters’ oversight fall under New Zealand’s PM. 

Additionally, there’d be stronger regulations in place to ensure all future events adhere to the 1987 Act. At the moment, there’s little transparency into all launches by the company raising the alarm among many stakeholders. 

There’s little information available about what the upcoming Gunsmoke-J payload is carrying. So far, the military satellite is proving to have more capabilities than earlier revealed. It raises lots of moral questions about the military launch, which Rocket Lab isn’t currently able to answer, and New Zealanders believe is a violation.

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