ASK ME ANYTHING: Rocket Labs' Peter Beck

Not many people are unimpressed by their first visit to Nasa, but Rocket Labs founder and chief executive Peter Beck is one.

He tells NBR Radio's Andrew Patterson he came away thinking, "This is my childhood dream and it’s a little bit crushed."

And this big-dreaming Kiwi is still unimpressed by the status quo.

"America is the greatest space nation in the world, and they went to space 19 times last year. The average cost of a mission was $132 million," he tells Patterson, using an inflection that implies 19 is not a serious number for the aerospace enthusiast. 

"How on earth can we open space up for commercial access and do all the amazing things we could do in space when it’s that inaccessible? Fundamentally, something needs to change. We’ve broken down the barriers to the sea and the air and the land, and it’s time we really started to utilise space."

Click the NBR Radio box above to Peter Beck's full interview, and his answers to all your questions.

When I first encountered Rocket Lab back in 2009, a couple of years after its launch, it seemed like a student jape. A jumped-up firework was launched from Sir Michael Fay's digs on Mercury Island, only to go missing (read Coromandel, we have a problem.)

Fast-forward to 2015 and the company is a serious player in the space business.

It has a contract with US military agency Darpa.

Legendary Silicion Valley venture capital outfit Khosla Ventures bought into the company in 2014.

US military and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin took a stake last year.

And just two weeks ago, Mr Beck inked an agreement with Nasa enabling Rocket Lab to use the US space agency's resources including personnel, facilities and equipment. 

Darpa, Lockheed and Nasa have been attracted to Rocket Lab by its breakthroughs in rocket fuel technology, and its prototype called the Electron (pictured), an 18m, 12-tonne rocket that could be the first in its class capable of delivering payloads up to 150kg into low Earth orbit. The Electron's price per launch is a super-low (by aerospace standards) $US5 million. There are bookings for 30 launches.

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Rocket Lab staff at the company's Auckland facility, located near the airport.

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