Head Office: Huntington Beach, California, United States
CEO: Peter Beck
Revenue: Privately owned
Employees (2019): 500
Rocket Lab is a private launch provider founded by New Zealander Peter Beck in 2006.
The company began by developing the Ātea-1 sounding rocket. In 2009, the company successfully launched the Ātea-1 and claimed to have become the first company in the Southern Hemisphere to reach space. Rocket Lab was able to make this claim because of its ownership of a subsidiary based in New Zealand, despite its parent company headquarters being located in California.
In December 2010, the Operationally Responsive Space Office (ORS) awarded Rocket Lab a contract to develop low-cost space launch systems that could deploy CubeSats into orbit. The contract enabled the company to utilise NASA resources including personnel, facilities and equipment in the development of the company’s first orbital-class launch vehicle, the Electron rocket.
From 2013 to 2018, Rocket Lab successfully closed several rounds of funding from private investors that included the likes of Bessemer Venture Partners, Lockheed Martin, Data Collective and Future Fund. A consistent injection of funding allowed the company to complete development of the Electron launch vehicle by early 2017.
The maiden flight of the Electron rocket lifted off from the company’s Mahia Peninsula launch facility on May 25, 2017. The launch ultimately failed after the telemetry feed to the range safety officer was lost following the separation of the first stage. The rocket was destroyed by range safety and an investigation later found it had simply been a software failure and not an issue with the rocket itself.
On January 21, 2018, Rocket Lab completed the first successful Electron mission carrying two Lemur-2 satellites, a Dove Pioneer satellite and the Humanity Star, a passive satellite designed by Rocket Lab to produce flares visible from Earth. In a statement following the launch, CEO Peter Beck explained that the company hoped the Humanity Star would serve as “a bright symbol and a reminder to all on Earth about our fragile place in the universe.”
Currently, the company launches its Electron rocket exclusively from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, its private commercial spaceport at the southern tip of the Mahia Peninsula on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. However, the company plans to begin launching from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia this year. It has also explored the possibility of launching from the proposed Sutherland spaceport in the United Kingdom.