Position: CEO and technical director, Rocket Lab
Field: Rocket engineering
Peter Beck is CEO and technical director of Rocket Lab, a New Zealand rocket technology company. He founded Rocket Lab in 2006 with the goal of making space accessible to commercial business. Peter has a vision that affordable access to space will enable powerful global change – for example allowing developing nations better access to internet. He says, "Disseminating the knowledge of the world, access to education and information globally will be a game changer for many."
Peter led Rocket Lab to accomplish its first major goal of building and launching a rocket to reach space in 2009.
In 2013, Rocket Lab achieved backing from a Silicon Valley venture capitalist. At this time they also made the move to the United States, basing their corporate headquarters in Los Angeles and registering the company there. The research and development arm of Rocket Lab remains predominantly within New Zealand, at their facility near Auckland Airport. Rocket Lab have also built a rocket launch facility at Mahia Peninsula on the East Coast of New Zealand. In 2017 he watched on as Rocket Lab launched their Electron rocket into space from this, the world's first private orbital launch site in New Zealand.
Peter continues to lead Rocket Lab as a high-tech company in international markets.
Before forming Rocket Lab, Peter’s already prestigious career included work with Crown research institute Industrial Research Ltd (IRL). During this time, one of the projects he was heavily involved with included work on aspects of high-temperature superconductor manufacture.
I would certainly encourage any young student out there to pursue a career in engineering and science.Peter Beck
Peter’s passion and skills in high-tech engineering began at an early age. He came from a family of engineers and always had a workshop and tools available to him to foster his innovation and practical skills. After leaving school, Peter pursued an advanced trade in precision engineering. This practical grounding has enabled Peter to develop Rocket Lab’s propulsion technologies to such high levels.
Peter is New Zealand’s leading rocket technology expert. He maintains a very hands-on approach with all aspects of the company’s rocket propulsion research, testing and manufacture. He has always enjoyed solving engineering challenges and is confident about Rocket Lab’s continuing success.
As the company's expansion continuted, in 2020, Rocket Lab moved its headquarters to Long Beach, California.
There's going to be a lot of people that tell you it's not possible; there's going to be many, many times when it just seems impossible and hard, but we always find a way.Peter Beck
Peter's work has been much lauded, in February 2015 Peter Beck was named 'New Zealand Innovator of the Year'. In June 2017 Peter was inducted into the EY World Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. Earlier he was awarded the Royal Society Cooper Medal for the best single account of research in physics and engineering, as well as a Meritorious Medal from the Royal Aeronautical Society for services of an exceptional nature leading to major advances in New Zealand aviation.
In October 2017 at the NZ Innovation Awards, Rocket Lab took out the 'Bayer Supreme New Zealand Innovation for 2017' as well as winning the award for innovation in design and engineering. 2018 saw Peter being awarded one of six medals in the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Awards.
Peter was named an adjunct professor of aerospace engineering by the University of Auckland in 2019.
This article is based on information current in 2017, and updated in 2021.
News story from September 2016 about Rocket Lab opening in the Hawke's Bay, the world's first private orbital launch site.
On the 25 May 2017 Rocket Lab broke new ground when its Electron rocket reached space from the world's first private orbital launch site.