Are the Greens returning to their roots?
Greens Say Rocket Lab Launch Breaches National Security
Wednesday, 10 March 2021, 11:54 am
Press Release: Green Party
10 March, 2021
The Green party supports the open letter to the Government about Rocket Lab threats to New Zealand’s security, sovereignty and national interests.
“I want to stand in support of Mahia locals and peace advocates for speaking up about Mahia being used as a Launchpad by the US Military”, says Green Party spokesperson for Security and Intelligence Teanau Tuiono.
“We support the call to suspend the granting of licences for space-launch activities on behalf of US military agencies and to reverse the Gunsmoke-J permit which is scheduled to be part of the next Rocket Lab launch.
“Gunsmoke-J belongs to the US Army’s Space and Missile Defence Command (SMDC) and is designed to improve US missile targeting capabilities during combat.
“The Government has a moral responsibility to make sure technologies sent into orbit by New Zealand companies from New Zealand soil do not assist other countries’ armies to wage war.
“The launch of a satellite that enables weapons of war to more precisely target people does not comply with the principle for authorising New Zealand space activity, approved by Cabinet in 2019. It states ‘space activities should be conducted in a way that does not jeopardise human safety (including the safety of people in space).’
“We should only support launches that have peaceful purposes enabling the weaponisation of space will only make us a US military target.”
The Green Party says an upcoming Rocket Lab launch in New Zealand breaches national security and threatens the country’s sovereignty and national interests.
Rocket Lab, which is United States-owned but based in New Zealand, is due to launch its next mission in mid-March at Māhia Peninsula. The mission will carry and deploy satellites for a range of commercial and government customers, including the US Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC).
The ‘They Go Up So Fast’ mission will carry the SMDC’s Gunsmoke-J payload, which is described by Rocket Lab as “an experimental” satellite that “will test technologies that support development of new capabilities for the US Army”.
Teanau Tuiono, the Green Party’s spokesperson for security and intelligence, says he stands in support of Māhia locals and peace advocates who have spoken up about the town being used as “a launchpad by the US military”.
“We support the call to suspend the granting of licences for space-launch activities on behalf of US military agencies and to reverse the Gunsmoke-J permit which is scheduled to be part of the next Rocket Lab launch,” he says.
Tuiono says Gunsmoke-J is designed to improve US missile targeting capabilities during combat.
“The Government has a moral responsibility to make sure technologies sent into orbit by New Zealand companies from New Zealand soil do not assist other countries’ armies to wage war,” he says.
“The launch of a satellite that enables weapons of war to more precisely target people does not comply with the principle for authorising New Zealand space activity, approved by Cabinet in 2019. It states ‘space activities should be conducted in a way that does not jeopardise human safety (including the safety of people in space)’.”
He believes launches should only be supported if they have “peaceful purposes” and that “enabling the weaponisation of space” will make New Zealand a US military target.
Tuiono questioned Stuart Nash, the Minister for Economic and Regional Development, about the launch of the Gunsmoke-J payload during Parliament’s Oral Questions last month. Nash said he received advice from the New Zealand Space Agency, which sits within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, who confirmed they assessed the application for launching the Gunsmoke-J satellite against a number of criteria in the Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act.
“The assessment process is supported by multiple Government agencies that contribute to the regulation of space-related activities,” Nash said.
“The New Zealand Space Agency processes each application on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the requirements of the Act are met.”
He said this includes that:
- the payload will be operated safely and meet New Zealand’s requirements on orbital debris mitigation
- the proposed operation of the payload is consistent with New Zealand’s international obligations
- its operations do not pose a risk to national security
- its operations are not contrary to New Zealand’s national interest.
Nash said he is unaware of the specific military capabilities of the SMDC satellite.
“The applicant in this case provided all the information that was deemed required by our space agency to make a recommendation to me,” he said.
“The New Zealand Space Agency assessed the application and provided me with advice that, in fact, this satellite did not pose a risk to national security and the operations were not contrary to New Zealand’s national interest.”
Nash said he does believe that the Government has a moral responsibility to make sure technologies sent into orbit by New Zealand companies from New Zealand soil don’t assist other countries’ armies to wage war.
“What I will say is that when Cabinet analysed the process for signing off on satellite launches, we analysed this process very, very carefully before we signed off the relevant legislation,” he said.
“And one thing I will say is we take our international obligations very seriously, which is why I say that the space agency assessed that this satellite did not pose a risk to national security, nor were the operations contrary to New Zealand’s national interests.”
© Provided by Newshub
In a statement, Nash says he would not approve any payload if, when assessed, it was found it would contribute to a nuclear weapons programme.
“This is consistent with our domestic and international legal obligations, as well as our proud and firm history of being nuclear-free,” he says.
“Each payload permit application is also assessed for consistency with New Zealand’s international obligations, including those covering nuclear non-proliferation.”
Newshub has contacted the New Zealand Space Agency to respond to the Green Party’s statement.
Morgan Bailey, Rocket Lab’s head of communications, reiterates Nash’s earlier statements that all applications for a payload permit are subject to assessments against a number of criteria in the Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act.
She says no payload will be approved for launch if it does any one of the following:
- contributes to nuclear weapons programmes or capabilities
- has the intended end use of harming, interfering with, or destroying other spacecraft, or systems on Earth
- has the intended end use of supporting or enabling specific defence, security or intelligence operations that are contrary to government policy
- has the intended end use likely to cause serious or irreversible harm to the environment.
“The payload in question was assessed against these criteria and approved for launch. To date, all payloads launched from New Zealand have met these stringent requirements and received payload permits,” Bailey says.
This is all there is from Pravda-on-the-South Seas and possibly all there has ever been.
In keeping with the former organ of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union this is the entire text from the state propaganda outlet, RNZ
The mission, called Another One Leaves the Crust, was scheduled for lift-off last night from the Mahia Peninsula but was delayed so the organisation could review sensor data.
It will send a single communication micro satellite in to a lower-earth orbit for a German based company.
The organisation’s Head of Communication Morgan Bailey says they have a window until 25 January to launch the mission.
It will be the company’s 18th mission, a dedicated mission for European space technology company OHB group.
Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck said the launch was taking place at a quick pace, within six months of signing the contract.
“By flying as a dedicated mission on Electron, OHB and their mission partners have control over launch timing, orbit, integration schedule, and other mission parameters.”
Rocket Lab also aims to launch a mission to the Moon in support of Nasa’s CAPSTONE program this year.
More spin from the Spinoff
Update: On 22 February The Spinoff reported that the Minister has now approved the Gunsmoke-J satellite for launch.
The minister responsible for New Zealand’s space regime has yet to sign off on a controversial US military satellite, which Rocket Lab announced yesterday it would launch from New Zealand next month.
The experimental Gunsmoke-J payload, which belongs to the US Army’s Space and Missile Defence Command (SMDC), is designed to improve US military targeting capabilities, as The Spinoff reported yesterday.
All satellites launched from New Zealand must be signed off by the economic development minister who is currently Stuart Nash. But as yet, Nash has not received an application for the controversial satellite, even though officials have been assessing it for at least three months.
By November last year, an application for the Gunsmoke-J was already under “active review” by NZ Space Agency staff. And in January this year, the agency again told The Spinoff the payload was “still under active review by officials and ministers”.
But the most important of those ministers has yet to receive an application, he told The Spinoff.
“I have not received a permit application for the payload referenced in Rocket Lab’s announcement today. Once I receive the application I will make a judgement on whether to grant or deny the permit, based on advice from officials,” Nash said yesterday.
Nash declined a request for an interview on the subject, and would not say whether he has been consulted on the application or has concerns about its payload.
Under principles agreed by Cabinet late in 2019, approval will be denied to payloads that contribute to nuclear weapons programmes or support military operations ”contrary to government policy”.
Given the satellite is yet to be approved, The Spinoff asked the Space Agency whether it had coordinated with Rocket Lab around the timing of the announcement. Agency head Dr Peter Crabtree said: “An application is in train.”
Rocket Lab declined to say whether the announcement was agreed with the Space Agency, but said the agency had been advised of the announcement in advance.
“It’s common for missions and payloads to be announced prior to payload permitting, as that process is often completed closer to the opening of a launch window,” Rocket Lab head of communications Morgan Bailey said.
“Rocket Lab aims to provide as much notice and information as possible about upcoming missions in advance, which means often payloads are still undergoing permitting processes.”
The timing of sensitive launch announcements has previously been a cause of tension between Rocket Lab and the Space Agency.
In January last year, Rocket Lab privately condemned the agency’s decision to announce a mission for US spy agency the National Reconnaissance Office only 10 days before the launch was scheduled.
FINALLY, this seems to be getting some belated attention – from RNZ.