Rocket Lab

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Rocket Lab Ltd.
Founder Peter Beck[1]
Headquarters Headquarters Los Angeles, CA,
Key people
Peter Beck, CEO
Website Official website

Rocket Lab Ltd. is an American aerospace company headquartered in Los Angeles, California. It has a subsidiary office headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand.[2] It is developing the 'Electron' rocket for high-frequency rocket launches with low mass payload to Earth orbit.


Rocket Lab was founded as a New Zealand firm. As of mid-2014, media sources continued to refer to Rocket Lab as a New Zealand company.[3]

Former Crown Research scientist Peter Beck is its founder, CEO and Technical Director. Internet entrepreneur Mark Rocket was the seed investor and co-Director from 2007 to 2011.[4][inconsistent]

In December 2010 Rocket Lab was awarded a US contract from the Operationally Responsive Space Office (ORS) to study a low cost space launcher to place nanosatellites into orbit.[5][6][7][8]

Funding has been obtained from Bessemer Venture Partners, Callaghan Innovation, in 2014, and from Khosla Ventures in 2013.[9][3]

In February 2015, Rocket Lab USA was evaluating Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as a possible launch site.[10]

Rocket Lab announced it selected the Kaitorete Spit, at the southern end of Banks Peninsula, New Zealand, to be the site of its commercial space center in July 2015.[11] After encountering difficulty in obtaining resource consent for the Kaitorete Spit launch site, Rocket labs announced in November 2015 that its primary launch site would instead be on the Mahia Peninsula, east of Wairoa on the North Island.[12]

Sounding rockets[edit]


The first launch of the Ātea-1 (Māori for 'space') suborbital sounding rocket occurred in late 2009.[13] The 6-metre (20 ft) long rocket weighing 60 kg is designed to carry a 2 kg payload to an altitude of 120 km.[14] It was intended to carry scientific payloads or possibly personal items.[15][16][dated info]

Ātea-1 was successfully launched from Great Mercury Island near Coromandel on 30 November 2009 at 2:30 pm after fueling problems delayed the scheduled 7:10 am liftoff.[17]


A larger Ātea-2 series rocket was reported[by whom?] to be under development.[18][when?]

Electron launch vehicle[edit]

In July 2014 it was announced that the company is developing a rocket called Electron, a carbon composite rocket with a payload to orbit of 110 kilograms (240 lb) and a projected cost of less than US$5 million per launch.[19] As of July 2014, the first test launch is planned for 2015.[1]

In April 2015, the company announced the details of the Electron's Rutherford engines. This engine uses pumps that are uniquely powered by battery-powered electric motors rather than a gas generator, expander, or preburner.[20] The engine is also fabricated largely by 3D printing, via electron beam melting,[21] whereby layers of metal powder are melted in a high vacuum by an electron beam rather than a laser.


  1. ^ a b c Messier, Doug (2014-07-29). "Rocket Lab Announces New Small Satellite Launcher". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 2014-07-31. 
  2. ^ "Rocket Lab USA poised to change the space industry". 29 July 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Messier, Doug (2014-07-30). "A Look at Rocket Lab Funding Sources". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 2014-07-31. 
  4. ^ "Home". Mark Rocket. 
  5. ^ Rocket Lab News, Webarchive: "December 2010 - Rocket Lab was awarded a US contract from the Operationally Responsive Space Office (ORS) to study low cost international alternatives. Included in this study is a 640,000Ns booster, a miniature avionics system and a launch vehicle to place small mass satellites into polar and low Earth orbits."
  6. ^ "Rocket Research & Development Based in New Zealand". Rocket Lab. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  7. ^ "New Zealand Rocketry Association (NZRA) - Rocketry Links". Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  8. ^ "NZ set to join the space age". NZPA. 9 October 2009. Retrieved 22 November 2011. 
  9. ^ "Rocket Lab". Khosla Ventures. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  10. ^ Dean, James (6 February 2015). "New rocket company looks at Cape Canaveral for launches". Florida Today. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  11. ^ Thomas, Lauren (1 July 2015). "Space Base in New Zealand Picked to Start Private Trips to Orbit". Bloomberg. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  12. ^ Gregory, Debbie; Ashton, Andrew (2015-11-24). "Rocket Lab chooses Mahia for space launches". The Gisborne Herald. 
  13. ^ Cooper, Tracy (2009-11-30). "NZ's first space rocket launches". Waikato Times. Retrieved 2015-04-08. 
  14. ^ "Ātea-1 technical specifications". Rocket Lab. Archived from the original on 23 February 2010. 
  15. ^ "Rocket project gears for take off". The New Zealand Herald. 15 August 2007. Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  16. ^ Goldsmith, Rob (16 November 2009). "Rocket lab primed to launch new zealand’s first rocket into space". Space Fellowship website. Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  17. ^ "NZ's first space launch saved by $6 replacement part". The New Zealand Herald. 30 November 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2011. 
  18. ^ "Ātea-2 technical specifications". Rocket Lab. Archived from the original on 12 February 2010. 
  19. ^ Ryan, Sophie (2014-07-29). "NZ to get its own space programme by 2015". The New Zealand Herald. APNZ. 
  20. ^ Bradley, Grant (2015-04-15). "Rocket Lab unveils world's first battery rocket engine". The New Zealand Herald. 
  21. ^ Grush, Loren (2015-04-15). "A 3D-Printed, Battery-Powered Rocket Engine". Popular Science.