Rocket Lab may have just dropped a nuke on the small sat launch market by secretly opening up an enormous factory in Auckland, New Zealand.
With only about 72 hours notice, I wound up flying to New Zealand to get an exclusive look at their new 7,500 sq/m (80,700 sq/ft) factory that is streamlined for an impressive production rate.
Walking inside their door feels like the entrance to either a modern art museum or, of course, a spaceship.
The factory is stunning. Clean, modern and bustling with over 250 employees on site. The company seems to be hiring at an equally impressive rate, constantly expanding their team. It’s clearly an exciting time for the up-and-coming company.
Although Rocket Lab’s engines and avionics are built in Huntington Beach, California, the final assembly of the vehicle is done here in Auckland–A fitting choice, as they’re currently only launching from their Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, some 500 km away (310 miles).
But that’s about to change. Next week (October 17th, 2018), Rocket Lab will be announcing their second launch site that will open in the United States.
After a 90 minute sit down with Rocket Lab CEO and founder, Peter Beck, I learned that his company’s two keys to success are unseen launch rates and reliability. This new factory will allow them to produce more than 50 rockets a year! Now that’s impressive.
We’re still a month or so away from Rocket Lab’s first commercial launch, “It’s Business Time,” but Rocket Lab already has a packed manifest.
They even managed to open a new Mission Control center. This is a major update from their old center, offering a really fun launch experience for customers or employees!
I think the real game changer here is the idea that if you were a small sat company looking for a ride to space, you could potentially fly within two months. Most of that wait time is due to waiting on certifications to fly from the FAA and the FCC (not Rocket Lab).
Then there’s the fact that you’re not ride sharing, and you’ll get placed precisely in your desired orbit. No more “close enough” orbits that are common with ride sharing, and no more huge amount of propellant required to get to your actual destination.
AND THEN there’s the fact that the vehicle is the smoothest ride to space! Payloads only experience 3 Gs throughout ascent, which is very, very low. As a matter of fact, the payload will experience more G force during the shipping process to Rocket Lab than it will the rest of its journey to space!
This factory blew my mind. When Rocket Lab asked me if I wanted to attend the opening of their new factory, I was a little snarky in my reply (“Honestly, I’m not sure how compelling of a story about where future rockets will be made would be…”). Boy was I wrong.
I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Peter Beck for a 90 minute interview and I got to ask him EVERYTHING. It was such a fun conversation. Stay tuned, that and many other videos will be posted on my YouTube channel in the near future.
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