There’s a bit of a theme emerging this month; once again New Zealand and space are making news together. This time it isn’t merino pushing to the final frontier, but instead it’s a company designing novel rocket propulsion systems.
Peter Beck founded Rocket Lab in 2007 using seed investment from an entrepreneur so inspired by space travel that he changed his last name from Stevens to Rocket. The company’s first design, Atea-1, got its name from the Maori word for universe or space. Atea gained recognition as the first privately built rocket in the Southern hemisphere to reach space.
In 2014, Rocket Lab unveiled its current model, Electron, which weighs 10 tonnes and is a third of the length of average rockets. Designed to launch satellites into orbit, each Electron costs $4.9 million, much less than the average $132 million for its international equivalents. Rocket Lab plans to launch this model for the first time later this year, the design of which could reduce the process to launch a satellite from years down to weeks.
“When we launch the first flight at the end of the year, New Zealand will become only the ninth nation in the history of the planet – and only the second commercial company – to have ever put something in orbit,” says Beck.
As part of their push beyond blue-sky thinking, Rocket Lab is looking to hire more New Zealanders because, as Beck puts it, they “have the uncanny ability to innovate and are incredibly strong problem solvers.”
Bessemer Venture Partners and Lockheed Martin clearly agree; both invested this year alongside existing stakeholders Khosla Ventures and Sir Stephen Tindall’s K1W1 investment fund.
By Emma Armitage, Business Analyst, BioPacific Partners