Today we begin a week-long celebration of excellence in leadership as we publish the nominees for the 2015 Business Leader of the Year.

Past winners of the award include Graeme Hart, Lloyd Morrison, Christopher Luxon and Rod Drury. The winner will be revealed on Saturday in the Weekend Herald.

Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck's drive and expertise has one of New Zealand's most ambitious aerospace projects on the cusp of a giant leap into space.

He's the "head visionary" for the Electron rocket programme, technical adviser to the project and has also proven himself adept in the boardrooms of venture capitalists here and in Silicon Valley.

While the schedule has slipped because of consenting trouble, Beck is confident the 16m-tall craft will be ready for blast-off by the middle of next year.


The revolutionary rocket is aimed at cutting the cost of sending satellites into space from $160 million each to just $6 million. The venture has attracted investment from Silicon Valley-based Khosla Ventures and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, as well as Sir Stephen Tindall's K1W1.

Beck grew up in Invercargill in a family of tinkerers and built his first bike out of aluminium. He got hooked on astronomy after his father built a telescope.

He's been awarded a Meritorious Medal from the Royal Aeronautical Society for service of an exceptional nature in New Zealand aviation, and the Cooper Medal, presented by the Royal Society biannually to those deemed to have published the best single account of research in physics and engineering.

When he was named Innovator of the Year at the 2015 New Zealander of the Year Awards he said Kiwis with global ambitions didn't generally aim to build billion-dollar companies but they should "go big or go home".