Mark Rocket, a space enthusiast, was an early seed investor in Rocket Lab. Mark describes New Zealand’s proud past contribution to space exploration through Sir William Pickering. Peter Beck, founder and technical director of Rocket Lab describes how he first formed Rocket Lab in 2006. Mark and Peter's belief that New Zealand has a great potential to contribute to this high-tech industry has been born out with the achievements of Rocket Lab in later years.
If we look at the past, there have been some great contributions from New Zealanders already. One that stands out would be Sir William Pickering and his directorship at Jet Propulsion Laboratories for over 20 years. JPL launched most of the unmanned American rockets into space, and they put the first Mariner probes to Venus and Mars and went on to explore the whole Solar System
A lot of us in New Zealand are very taken with Sir Edmund Hillary and his accomplishment of climbing the highest mountain, but not many people know about Sir William Pickering, and he is a guy that helped explore the whole Solar System, which I think is an incredible feat and I think New Zealanders should be very proud of that. The future of the New Zealand space industry has huge potential.
Rocket Lab was formed on the back of over a decade of my own private research. For me, what cemented the beginning of Rocket Lab was a trip to the United States. I did a bit of a rocket pilgrimage, and while I was there I was talking to people and looking at hardware, I realised that they were using the same pressure transducers as me, they are using the same strain gauges as I, and they are having the same combustion and stability issues, and really the gap wasn’t that huge.
So coming back on the plane, I decided, righty oh, time to do something about this and make this my career and so came back to New Zealand and incorporated Rocket Lab. I started to seek investment and stumbled across a gentlemen by the name of Mark Rocket. Mark had done very well for himself and was looking to invest in space activities. So I sold half the company to Mark and that is what got us some initial investment to get started.
First of all, we want to see a space industry emerge in New Zealand, and we want to make space more accessible. We want to contribute to that. With the materials and the technology development that is happening now, it is making the space industry more attainable to be part of it. There’s a lot of areas that you can focus in on and make a sound contribution. I think New Zealand is well positioned to be able to take advantage of this high-tech opportunity, and we’ve got a lot of people in New Zealand that are very capable of contributing, and New Zealand is trying to reposition itself as being a high-tech capable country, and you know, what’s more high-tech than rocketry?