Fri. Nov 18th, 2022

Elon Musk has taken a swipe at Rocket Labs new rocket, saying it looks familiar.
Rocket Lab unveiled its new Neutron rocket on Twitter on Tuesday. The Kiwi-founded company said it could conduct launches from New Zealand of its new breed of rocket under-development, which could be capable of carrying people and heavier loads into space.
SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk responded: Looks familiar haha. Nonetheless, the right move. Congrats to Rocket Lab.
Its not the first time Musk has commented on Rocket Labs updates, with congratulations being sent during previous missions.
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Rocket Lab responded in a light-hearted tone: Thanks very much Elon. We’ve always admired SpaceX and what the team has achieved. We’re excited to add Neutron to the family.
Rocket Lab plans to list on the United States Nasdaq exchange with a valuation of US$4.1 billion (NZ$5.7b) and build a rocket capable of carrying payloads weighing up to 8 tonnes.
Rocket Lab’s existing Electron rockets are comparatively small, at 18 metres in length, and are only capable of launching satellites with a maximum weight of 300kg.
The company said its new 40 metre-tall reusable Neutron rockets would be capable of human spaceflight, deeper space missions, and deploying mega constellations of communications satellites in one go.
Its Neutron rockets would be able to lift 98 per cent of all satellites forecast to launch through to 2029, it said.
The largest immediate market for the new rockets would be deploying mega-constellations of small satellites, founder and chief executive Peter Beck said on a conference call.
These fly in formation and are used to deliver broadband from space, but have proved controversial because of concerns they lighten up the night sky.
Rocket Lab is planning the first private mission to another planet.
Rocket Lab is now headquartered in the US, but employs most of its staff in New Zealand where it has launched all its rockets to date from the Mhia Peninsular, near Gisborne.
It also has a launch pad for Electrons in Virginia.
Beck said Rocket Lab planned to launch its first Neutron rocket from Virginias Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in 2024 and that would be crewless.
Beck said it would use the shared spaceport because it had $1m-worth of infrastructure there ready for us to bolt a rocket to, but that Neutrons could absolutely be launched from New Zealand.
The Mhia launch site is an amazing site with the largest range of launch inclinations.
The company said it was assessing locations in America to build a factory that would create hundreds of jobs making the new rockets.
But Beck indicated the move into the heavier rocket market would also create work in New Zealand.
A large proportion of the work will be done here in New Zealand, he said.
The company had 90 vacancies in New Zealand and there would be a lot more opportunities, he said.
The Neutron rocket would need new engines but Beck said there was a lot of learning that it could transfer across from its Electron programme.
We were the first to put 3D-printed engines into orbit, so we will be leveraging a lot of that expertise.
Rocket Lab will list on the Nasdaq exchange by the end of June through a merger with a listed shell company, Vector Acquisition Corporation, set up for the purpose.
A Nasdaq listing would allow ordinary New Zealanders to invest in the business for the first time, through most sharebrokers.
The US$4.1b valuation will mean Rocket Lab had roughly tripled in value since it raised private capital in a funding round in November 2018, at which time it had only had one commercial flight.
Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck says goal is to create a multibillion dollar business.
It has since gone on to complete another 15 successful launches, with one launch failure.
Rocket Lab will get US$750m in cash through the merger with Vector Acquisitions and from investors which it will be able to use to finance its new plans.
The company is forecasting it will generate an adjusted operating profit in 2023, positive cash flows in 2024, and more than US$1b in revenue in 2026
The Government-owned New Zealand Venture Investment revealed to a select committee in 2019 that it was offered the chance to invest in Rocket Lab in 2014, when the space launch company was worth only $30m, but had to turn down the opportunity because its rules at the time did not allow it to invest directly in small, early stage ventures.
Kiwis look set to get some benefit from a successful listing, however, as the Accident Compensation Commission invested in the firm in its 2018 funding round.
Beck said he was in no rush to go into space himself.
I think I probably understand the risks. I am one of those people who looks out of an aircraft at the wing, counting the fatigue cycles … so I dont think I would make a good passenger on a launch vehicle.