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Protest outside Rocket Lab over military-related satellite launches

About 30 people picketed outside Rocket Lab’s Auckland headquarters today to oppose the company’s military-related satellite launches. 

Green MP Teanau Tuiono protesting outside Rocket Lab's HQ in Auckland. Source: 1 NEWS

The American-owned, locally-based space company has launched numerous satellites for foreign militaries with sign off from the New Zealand Government. 

It’s a practice the Green Party wants to see banned. 

Green MP Teanau Tuiono, the party’s security and intelligence spokesperson, told demonstrators today he would be introducing a members’ bill to Parliament’s ballot. 

Tuiono’s bill, if pulled from the ballot and passed, would amend the Outer Space and High altitude Activities Act to prohibit New Zealand from launching military hardware into space. That act is due for review this year.

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The company has launched numerous satellites for foreign militaries. Source: 1 NEWS

He told 1 NEWS today military activities shouldn’t be privatised. 

“Rocketlab is a US military contractor, let's be very clear about that,” he said. 

Tuiono said current space legislation had gaps and grey areas, which allowed foreign military powers the ability to launch rockets

“Currently the Outer Space and High-Altitude Activities Act allows the minister to veto a satellite if it is not in the national interest. However, launches from Māhia have carried at least 13 payloads for US military or intelligence agencies,” he said in a statement. 

“The Government has a responsibility to make sure technologies sent into orbit from New Zealand soil do not assist other countries' armies to wage war.”

Tuiono pointed to the launch of Gunsmoke-J in March on behalf of the US Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command, which the New Zealand Government approved. Applications are tested against the law, the UN Charter and other international laws and weapons obligations.

Gunsmoke-J is designed to improve the US’ “long-range precision fires and other activities” to support combat operations, a US Army Space and Missile Defense Command spokesperson told Space News in February.

Rocket Lab said it didn’t launch payloads that contributed to weapons programmes or nuclear capabilities. 

The company said billions of people relied on defence satellite technology, like Google Maps, which is powered by satellites run by the US Air Force.