Rocket Lab hopes to launch payloads into space every week from New Zealand, propelling the island nation into the small group that has gone into low-Earth orbit. Getty Images

New Zealand might soon join the few nations that have made it to space, with one company’s plans to send commercial rockets into the atmosphere.

The Associated Press reported Rocket Lab, which is based in California but run by a New Zealander, could launch its Electron rocket for the first time this week from a peninsula on that island nation’s northeastern side.

The AP said the company is aiming for weekly launches eventually, starting commercial launches later this year. The carbon fiber rockets are lightweight, made from disposable materials and containing 3D-printed electric engines. With such light rockets — compared to the more heavy-duty and reusable rockets from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, for example — the Electron will carry lighter cargo, like small satellites. Rocket Lab pegs the cost of each launch at $5 million, a fraction of the typical cost.

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NASA might be on the list of groups that use Rocket Lab to haul equipment into low-Earth orbit.

Rocket Lab is a private company, as opposed to a national space agency, but regular launches would still represent a big step for a small country.

“So far, it’s only superpowers that have gone into space,” Simon Bridges, New Zealand’s economic development minister, told the AP. “For us to do it, and be in the first couple of handfuls of countries in the world, is pretty impressive.”

Eventually, the company plans to do 50 or more launches a year, which would be a few times more than what the U.S. sends up.

Although it’s a more private effort, New Zealand is not the only country trying to catch up to space-traveling nations. China just locked up some student volunteers into a fake space outpost, a “lunar palace” on Earth that simulates the isolation and tasks of a group living on a space station or in a base on another planet. The students are raising animals and plants for a year, in the second experiment of its kind for the Asian nation, which hopes to have a permanently staffed space station orbiting Earth in the next several years, and to send explorers to both the moon and Mars.

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“Space has always held a fascination for me,” Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck told the AP. “Not enough people go out on nice starry night and look up.”

If Rocket Lab wants to catch up to SpaceX, it’s going to have a lot of work to do: The American company is known for its groundbreaking advancements in space technology, especially after it successfully landed a rocket vertically for the first time and later reused that rocket.