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Maiden Flight for Rocket Lab's Mini Launcher Nears


When Rocket Lab's small satellite launcher blasts off from New Zealand next week on its debut test flight, it will be more than just the Electron rocket that is on trial. 

The flight, which Rocket Lab playfully named "It's a Test," also will serve as a shakedown for the world's first commercial spaceport for orbital flights and as a test of procedures for launching from a country that has never flown a rocket into space before.

"It's a test of not just the launch vehicle, but all this brand-new infrastructure," Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck said in an interview with "There's apt to be some teething problems." [Electron Rocket Arrives at Launch Pad In New Zealand (Video)]

Although the rocket is flying from New Zealand, Rocket Lab's home base, the company also has headquarters in Los Angeles, putting launch oversight in the hands of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

On Monday (May 15), the FAA issued a license for Rocket Lab to launch three test flights of its Electron rocket from Mahia Peninsula, located in Hawke's Bay on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island.

The 10-day launch window opens at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) on Sunday (May 21).

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