Peter Beck (right)
Peter Beck (right), 46, Rocket Lab founder and CEO, has no formal training in aerospace or rocketry, and has no college degree. Electron (left) is the company's two-stage rocket designed to carry payloads of up to 300 kilograms (660 pounds) to low Earth orbit (LEO). It is known for its high success rate and inexpensive launch service. Image Credit: LinkedIn | X | Vijith Pulikkal | Gulf News

​​Peter Joseph Beck is a self-taught rocket engineer. His innovations are disrupting rocketry and the organisations that once threw him out while applying as a would-be intern.

Rocket Lab, a company he founded and currently leads as CEO (also its chief technology officer), is filling a gap left by Elon Musk’s Space X.

Becks' ultimate goal: to make it easier, and cheaper, for people to access space. Having roped in Nasa as one of the company's customers, he's got something going for him.

New Zealand-born Beck, 46, has no formal training in aerospace, and has no college degree. Yet he's one of the recognised rocket innovators and disruptors of the 21st century.

47th successful launch

On Wednesday, Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket launched into orbit NeonSat-1 and Nasa’s Advanced Composite Solar Sail System, on the company’s 47th launch mission.

“We're proud to deliver reliable and dedicated access to space for you!” Beck stated in a tweet on April 24.

Self-taught rocket engineer

His venture into the realm of rocketry has become legendary.

Despite not attending university, Beck is a self-taught rocket engineer who developed his passion for rockets from a young age. As a teenager, Beck spent time experimenting with rockets and propellants, even utilising the workshop at his workplace to further his knowledge.

In his 20s, Beck embarked on a "rocket pilgrimage" to the US. By that time, he had already constructed a steam-powered rocket bicycle capable of reaching speeds close to 90 mph. He aspired that his experiments would persuade Nasa or companies like Boeing to offer him an internship. However, his hopes were dashed when he found himself escorted off the premises of multiple rocket labs instead.

He apprenticed as a tool-and-die maker at Fisher & Paykel, where he honed his engineering skills. In 2006, he founded Rocket Lab as a private aerospace company specialising in small satellite launches. Its US headquarters is based in Long Beach, California, and has a wholly-owned New Zealand subsidiary.

The company's efforts led to the successful launch of Atea-1 in 2009, the first commercially-developed rocket to reach space from the Southern Hemisphere.


Under his leadership, Rocket Lab developed the Electron rocket, a two-stage rocket designed to carry payloads of up to 300 kilograms (660 pounds) to low Earth orbit (LEO). The Electron is known for its innovative design, including 3D-printed engines and lightweight composite materials, which help reduce launch costs.

Peter Beck Rocket Lab
Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal |

The Electron is known for its innovative design, including 3D-printed engines and lightweight composite materials, which help reduce launch costs.

Rocket Lab also has plans to develop a larger "reusable" rocket called “Neutron”, which aims to further expand access to space for a wider range of payloads, possibly posing a rival to Musk's Space X.

The company is now worth $1.8 billion, and Beck has an estimate net worth of $182 million. In the process, he has collected numerous awards for his perseverance and innovation.

Beck is a vocal advocate for space exploration and the commercial space industry. He often speaks about the importance of innovation and collaboration in advancing humanity's presence in space.

The company currently undertakes composite work for launch vehicles and spacecraft across its facilities in Long Beach, California, Albuquerque, New Mexico, as well as Auckland and Warkworth, New Zealand.


He’s known as a visionary, able to take calculated risks.

As for his role, he told CNBC in May: “I would classify my job as taking an enormous risk and then mitigating that risk to the nth degree. Given that, you have to see windows of opportunity and run into them.

“The challenge is that, especially within this industry, you have to poke your head into the corner but not commit too deeply. “Otherwise, you’ll get your head cut off. I start by being very analytical: “OK, we’re here. What happened for us to get here? And how do we get out of here?”

On taking risks

“Sometimes,” he said, “you can take big risks. Sometimes, you need to be very safe and methodical about how to back out of situations. Control the things you can control and acknowledge the things you can’t control.

“Running a rocket company is kind of like that scene in Indiana Jones’, where he’s getting chased by that giant ball. You have to flawlessly execute, because the moment that you don’t, the consequences can be terminal for the company pretty quickly.”


Beck recognised that the traditional aerospace industry was dominated by large, expensive rockets that were not well-suited for the growing demand for small satellite launches.

These small satellites, often used for Earth observation, communication, and scientific research, were becoming increasingly capable and affordable, but they lacked affordable and reliable launch options.

With this in mind, Beck set out to develop a new kind of launch vehicle specifically tailored to the needs of under small satellite operators.


Rocket Lab faced numerous challenges and setbacks along the way, including technical hurdles, funding issues, and the inherent risks associated with spaceflight. However, Beck and his team remained determined to bring their vision to life.

In 2017, Rocket Lab achieved a major milestone with the successful launch of its first Electron rocket into space, marking the beginning of regular commercial launches.

Since then, Rocket Lab has established itself as a leading provider of small satellite launch services, conducting frequent launches from its launch complexes in New Zealand and the US.

Satellite maker
In 2006, New Zealand-born Beck founded Rocket Lab and led its efforts to successfully launch Atea-1 in 2009, the first commercially-developed rocket to reach space from the Southern Hemisphere.

In addition to its launch services, Rocket Lab has also expanded into other areas of the space industry, including satellite manufacturing through its subsidiary, "Photon," and the development of new launch vehicles such as the reusable Neutron rocket.

Throughout its journey, Rocket Lab has stuck with its mission of easing access to space – providing affordable and reliable launch services (43 successes out of 47 launches) for small satellite operators around the world.

Beck's entrepreneurial journey with Rocket Lab serves as inspiration for aspiring engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs, demonstrating the power of determination, innovation, and passion in achieving ambitious goals in the aerospace industry.


2006: Peter Beck founds Rocket Lab with the vision of providing affordable and frequent access to space for small satellites.

2009: Rocket Lab becomes the first private company in the Southern Hemisphere to reach space.

2017: Rocket Lab conducts its first successful orbital launch with the Electron rocket.

2018: Rocket Lab announces plans to build a second launch pad at Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand.

2019: Rocket Lab launches its first mission for Nasa, deploying CubeSats into orbit as part of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program.

2020: Rocket Lab unveils plans for the Neutron rocket, a larger, reusable launch vehicle designed for satellite constellations and interplanetary missions.

2021: Rocket Lab completes its first mission to the Moon, launching the CAPSTONE spacecraft for NASA's Artemis program.

2022: Rocket Lab goes public through a merger with Vector Acquisition Corporation, trading on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol "RKLB."

2023: Rocket Lab announces plans to build a new launch complex in Scotland to expand its launch capabilities in Europe.

2024: Rocket Lab continues to expand its launch cadence, conducting regular missions to deploy satellites for commercial and government customers.