NZ’s rocket man dreams big

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Starship Enterprise chief engineer Montgomery Scott had a reputation as a miracle worker.

Asked by his captain, James T Kirk, how much refit time the starship required before she could relaunch, Scott said: “Eight weeks, sir, but ye don’t have eight weeks, so I’ll do it for ye in two.”

Kirk asked Scott if he had always multiplied his repair estimates by a factor of four.

“Certainly, sir,” was the reply. “How else can I keep my reputation as a miracle worker?”

Rocket Lab USA founder and chief executive Peter Beck is a real life miracle worker of more legendary proportions than Scotty.

There’s no multiplication of estimates going on in Peter Beck’s case, he just gets amazing results.

Without Peter Beck, Rocket Lab USA would never have been founded in 2006.

Without Peter, the company would never have embarked on 12 years of hard work culminating in the successful launch of an Electron rocket on January 20, 2018, from Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand.

Without Peter, Rocket Lab would never have invited Star Trek’s original Captain Kirk to open its production facility on October 12 in Mt Wellington, Auckland.

Without Peter, the Auckland facility would never have ramped up rocket production to the rate of one rocket per week.

Without Peter, Launch Complex 1 would never have been licensed to launch up to 120 times per year.

Without Peter, the New Zealand space industry would not exist.

Miracle worker indeed. To such an extent that Peter Beck’s pioneering name should be as well known in New Zealand, and even across the world, as Sir Edmund Hillary.

New Zealand Herald journalist Holly Ryan recognised this when she quoted Dr Nicholas Rattenbury, from University of Auckland Department of Physics, about Beck’s accomplishments.

Dr Rattenbury says sending a rocket to space remains one of the most challenging technological acts we, as a species, can accomplish.

Peter has received the Meritorious Medal from the Royal Aeronautical Society for service of an exceptional nature to New Zealand aviation for his accomplishments. He has also received the Royal Society’s Cooper Medal, the Innovation in Design and Engineering Award at the NZ Innovators Awards and was named 2016 EY Entrepreneur of the Year.

If you asked Peter about the secret of his success he would probably put it down to his family, his friends, and everyone in his business from the person who mows the Launch Complex 1 lawns to the rocket scientists who designed and built the Electron rocket.

But it all started with Peter Beck’s dream.

The power of dreams cannot be underestimated.

Sir Ed dreamed of conquering Mt Everest.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates dreamed of a personal computer in every home.

Apple founder Steve Jobs dreamed of the iPad and the iPhone.

Peter Beck’s dream was sparked by a starship captain when Peter was five years old.

William Shatner “sparked a generation of space enthusiasm and he is an icon”, Peter said at the Rocket Lab opening

“I used to watch him when I was five years old and bouncing on my father’s knee in front of the television and I used to admire his exploration of the universe, boldly going where no man had gone before. That is Captain James T Kirk, Mr William Shatner.

“I can only imagine going back in time and tapping on the shoulder and whispering into that little boy’s ear, one day that Captain Kirk’s going to open your rocket factory.”

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About Author

David Hallett

David Hallett is a director of Hamilton software specialist Company-X, design house E9 and chief nerd at Waikato Need A Nerd.