Peter Beck hopes his "long journey and wild ride" will take a giant leap soon when the most powerful machine to fly from this country reaches orbit in two and a half minutes.

Today is day four of a launch window for his Electron Rocket to make history and put New Zealand in the space race.

Beck's on the cusp of what will be one of New Zealand's biggest technological and engineering achievements but he's not going to get impatient now. He's an enthusiast with a steely streak.

Last year he spoke of the danger of rushing the programme.


"There's not a single person on that team who is going to go for launch if their system is not perfect," Beck said then.

With more than 10 tonnes of liquid oxygen and kerosene aboard Electron, if it was to go wrong it could go very wrong. Investors who have sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into the start-up would not be pleased.

This week, as weather meant three launches have been scrubbed so far, he is hopeful of getting away but in no hurry. There's no ''go fever'' at mission control in Auckland.

''Everybody is excited to get this one away but also it's disciplined so nobody is trying to launch a rocket in a feverish kind of way. It is a methodical and clinical decision - either conditions are right or they're not."

For the 40-year-old the Electron programme is the result of a lifetime of dreaming and more than a decade of building a company that claims a value of more than $1 billion.

A successful launch from the company's pad at Mahia would make space history as it is the first time a rocket has been blasted into orbit - 300km above the earth's surface - from a private facility.

From a family of Invercargill engineers, Beck 40 has always been hands-on. At school he pulled an old Mini apart and rebuilt it part by part, souping it up with a turbocharger.

A toolmaking apprenticeship at Fisher & Paykel gave him access to top of the line machinery and materials after hours.


In 2001 he got a job in Auckland at Industrial Research (now Callaghan Innovation) which had its base at Balfour St in Parnell and continued working on his passion - rockets.

He set up Rocket Lab in 2006 and it was at IRL that he met Sir Stephen Tindall, who through K1W1 Ltd and other vehicles, has invested over $150m into a large number of startup and early-stage businesses.

Tindall said he was impressed by Beck, the consummate rocket scientist.

"He'd really done his apprenticeship and had spent a lot of time on this and become a world expert. He has a proven record in the industry and he's embraced the latest technology and gone beyond that with his own R&D and come up with something that is really the 787 of space."

Tindall says he also got good feedback from Sir Michael Fay, on whose Great Mercury Island Beck test fired the first multi-stage rocket in 2009.

Beck is not only a skilled engineer and rocket man, but can also sell the story. Silicon Valley venture capitalists and hard-nosed aerospace companies have bought in.

Tindall said last year that Beck had the knack of making the language of rocket science understandable for most people - most importantly investors.

"We've invested in a lot of companies now with dedicated scientists who have the nous in the lab but often can't translate that back through investor relations and speak in terms that others can understand," he says.

Every person in this company can make this a wild success or a dismal failure - that's the nature of the game.

While it can draw on up to $25m of government funding over five years, Rocket Lab's main backers include US companies Kholsa Ventures, Beesemer Venture Partners, Data Collective, Promus Ventures, Lockheed Martin and Stephen Tindall's K1W1.

In the build-up to opening its base at Mahia late last year, Beck told the Herald Rocket Lab was trying to do something tremendously challenging.

Married with two children, (a part of his life, like his financial stake in the company that he was not keen to talk about) it's been six-day weeks for much of the last decade.

"This is what I want to do with my life - it's not that I feel I get sick of this and I want to go and sit on the beach."