What is 2019 looking like for your business?
2019 is going to be a big year for Rocket Lab, following a fantastic 2018. We ended the year on a high, with a perfect launch for NASA – our third orbital mission for the year.
Next year, we're targeting up to 16 launches, and we'll also continue work on three major R&D projects that are currently under wraps.
Another Electron will be on the pad at Launch Complex 1 on the Māhia Peninsula in January, to kick off the 2019 launch campaign.
2019 will also be the year that Rocket Lab launches from US soil. We're currently building Launch Complex 2 at The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport within NASA's Wallops Flight facility in Virginia, USA. Our first launch from this pad is planned for late 2019.
Launch Complex 2 will be capable of supporting monthly orbital launches and is designed to serve US government and commercial missions.
Our New Zealand pad, Launch Complex 1, will, however, remain our high-frequency, high-volume site as it can support up to 120 launches per year.
We'll also continue adding to our teams in Huntington Beach, California, as well as Auckland and Māhia in New Zealand.
How is that different to 2018? How has the last year been for your business?
2018 has been a banner year for Rocket Lab. To have launched twice in just five weeks, in the first year of orbital flights, is unprecedented. No other company has achieved this so quickly.
A big part of 2018 was expanding our staff. We started the year with a team of 223 globally, and we're finishing off the year with around 380 people, and we're still actively recruiting for at least 100 more roles.
Rocket Lab expanded its global footprint with the unveiling of the new Auckland Production Complex, opened by special guest, William Shatner (perhaps better known as Captain Kirk).
The new 7500 sq/m facility is designed for rapid mass production of the Electron rocket. Adding to our existing production facility and headquarters in Huntington Beach, California, the Auckland Production Complex brings Rocket Lab's manufacturing footprint to more than 4.5 acres and enables the company to build an Electron every week.
In November, Rocket Lab closed a Series E financing round of US$10m ($206m), bringing funding to date to more than US$288 ($425m). We've now soared past our previous US$1 billion-plus valuation.
What are the issues affecting your industry in the next 12 months?
One issue we face is the availability of highly skilled and experienced talent. It's an issue faced by many high-tech industries in New Zealand, so we're passionate about nurturing the next generation of talent. It's why we created the Rocket Lab tertiary scholarship, which aims to encourage students into STEM-based degrees.
Beyond growing our team, 2019 will be a critical year for the small satellite industry globally. Frequent, dedicated and reliable access to space is something small satellites desperately need.
Launch start-ups have been promising it for years, and in 2018 Rocket Lab became the first company in the world to deliver on that promise.
More than 100 other companies globally are vying for a piece of a multi-billion-dollar industry, and 2019 is the year we expect to be make-or-break for a lot of those companies trying to make it to orbit for the first time.
What is the biggest issue you would like the Government to champion in 2019?
Innovation is part of our DNA as New Zealanders. There are so many concepts and businesses coming out of New Zealand that can disrupt global industries, yet we need stronger domestic venture capital investment to fully support them. It will be exciting to see the government support initiatives to grow the New Zealand VC and investment community to fully realise the potential of Kiwi entrepreneurs.
Do you get a break this summer? What's your favourite way to relax?
After a brief Christmas break, I'll be back to the US and Auckland factories to build rockets. We've got a packed customer manifest to launch in 2019, so I'm looking forward to getting more spacecraft on orbit.