Rocket Lab poised to change the space industry
Aerospace company Rocket Lab is developing a world-first launch vehicle to deliver satellites into orbit cheaper and
faster than ever before.
29 July 2014, Auckland: Rocket Lab is revolutionising the global space industry with the creation of a light-weight, cost-effective rocket,
making it easier for companies to launch small satellites into orbit.
Rocket Lab is building a world-first carbon-composite launch vehicle, named Electron, at its Auckland facility to reduce the price of delivering a satellite into orbit. At a price of less than $5 million
USD, this represents a drastic cost reduction compared to existing dedicated launch services.
The lead-time for businesses to launch a satellite will also be reduced from years to weeks through vertical
integration with Rocket Lab’s private launch facility. Rocket Lab has attracted strong commercial demand for its service
with commitments for its first 30 launches.
Electron is 18m in length, 1m diameter and will weigh more than 10 tonnes. This will be the first vehicle of its class capable
of delivering payloads up to 100kg into low Earth orbits (LEO).
New Zealander Peter Beck founded the company in 2007 with a vision of eliminating the commercial barriers to space.
He says that rockets have remained prohibitively large and expensive, despite the trend for satellites to become
smaller, more capable and affordable. The deficit in launch systems creates a severe barrier for commercial ventures and
for the emerging satellite constellation markets.
“The innovation behind Electron will release the limitations on launching small satellites. Our vision at Rocket Lab is to make space commercially
viable and more accessible than ever before, doing what the Ford Model T did for consumer automobiles. This technology
will really open space for business.
“Along with benefits for commercial enterprises, cheaper and faster space access has the potential to lead to more
accurate weather prediction, global high speed Internet access, as well as real-time monitoring of the impacts of human
development,” says Beck.
Beck says geographically, New Zealand is in an ideal launch position for a variety of different types of orbits and
plans are underway to build a space port on home soil.
“This will bring an innovative and exciting new industry to New Zealand with economic benefits at both a regional and
national level. We’re currently considering a shortlist of regions as potential locations for a space port and encourage
any region interested to get in touch with us now,” says Beck.
Rocket Lab’s principal funder is Silicon Valley giant Khosla Ventures, a top-tier venture capital firm that supports
companies with projected revenues in excess of US $1 billion.
Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures, says it is exciting to see to the technology and innovation coming out of
“Opening up access to space will be one of the fundamental developments of our time. We are very excited about our
investment in Rocket Lab, which represents technology inventions to help emerge a whole new generation of commercial
opportunities by having efficient and cost effective access to space,” says Khosla.
“The company’s technical innovations will truly transform the space industry.”
Electron: Fast facts
• Lift off mass: 10,500kg
• Propellant mass: 9,200kg
• Propellants: Liquid oxygen and kerosene
• Length: 18m
• Diameter: 1m
• Top speed: 27,500kph
• Maximum engine thrust : 146,000 N (14.8 tonnes)
• Engine equivalent power: 530,000hp
• Nominal orbit: 500km circular sun synchronous
• Nominal payload: 110kg
Notes to Editors:
CEO of Schafer Corporation and previous NASA Administrator Michael Griffin says that Rocket Lab’s work could be an
important game changer in the space industry and that its innovative design approach offers a really attractive path to
lower cost access to space.
“We’re all working towards a future where space becomes more accessible and Rocket Lab’s latest innovation is an
important step in making that happen,” says Griffin.
About Rocket Lab
Rocket Lab is an aerospace company founded in 2007 by New Zealander, Peter Beck. The company is focused on delivering
innovative, high quality technologies to the space industry.
Rocket Lab was created to cater to the growing requirement within the international market for fast, low cost methods of
delivering payloads to space. Since inception, the company has successfully developed a number of leading rocket-based
systems, from sounding rockets through to new advanced propulsion technologies.
Rocket Lab is an American company with a subsidiary and head office in Auckland, New Zealand.
Rocket Lab was the first private company to reach space in the southern hemisphere in 2009 with its Atea 1 suborbital
sounding rocket. Following this success the company won contracts with aerospace giants Lockheed Martin, DARPA and
 The average price of a dedicated launch service is $133 million (USD). Source: Launces 2014: A Review of 2013
Launches and Payloads by The Tauri Group.
 Source: Work Commences on Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) Designs by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
 LEO is an orbit around Earth with an altitude between 160 kilometres, with an orbital period of around 88 minutes,
and 2,000 kilometres, with an orbital period of around 127 minutes.