Rocket Lab boss Peter Beck has announced his company will launch reusable rockets.

He told a satellite conference in Utah that he ''would eat his hat'' and do something the company had so far steered clear of.

Data it had analysed showed it was possible to guide the first stage of a launch vehicle back into through the atmosphere and land it in the sea.

It had developed new technology and techniques to make this possible, he said.


The goal was to capture the vehicle in ''ideal condition,'' recover it and get it back on to a launchpad for another lift-off.

Beck said this was being done to increase the launch rate and it could bring down the cost of its operations.

He made the announcement to cheering at the Small Satellite Conference in Utah.

Work on Rocket Lab's Electron first stage reuse program began in late 2018, at the end of the company's first year of orbital launches.

The plan will be implemented in two phases. The first phase will see Rocket Lab attempt to recover a full Electron first stage from the ocean downrange of Launch Complex 1 at Mahia and have it shipped back to Rocket Lab's production complex for refurbishment.

The second phase will see Electron's first stage captured mid-air by helicopter, before the stage is transported back to Launch Complex 1 for refurbishment and relaunch. Rocket Lab plans to begin first stage recovery attempts in the coming year.

A major step towards Rocket Lab's re usability plans was completed on the company's most recent launch, the Make It Rain mission, which launched on 29 June from Launch Complex 1.

The first stage on this mission carried critical instrumentation and experiments that provided data to inform future recovery efforts.


The next Electron mission, scheduled for launch in August, will also carry recovery instrumentation.

Beck says from day one Rocket Lab's mission has been to provide frequent and reliable access to orbit for small satellites.

"Reusing the stage of a small launch vehicle is a complex challenge, as there's little mass margin to dedicate to recovery systems. For a long time we said we wouldn't pursue re usability for this very reason, but we've been able to develop the technology that could make recovery feasible for Electron.''

Beck told the conference Rocket Lab had launched into orbit seven times and there is a vehicle on the Mahia launch pad at the moment.

He said the company lived by the mantra that "'We do what we say we will do.''

Rocket Lab has been putting the final touches on its new launchpad, housed at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on the US East Coast.

Beck said today it could be one of the fastest launchpad builds ever. It had started driving piles at the beginning of the year and would be ready by year's end.

The customer would be a US government agency.

Over the past 12 months, Rocket Lab has launched small satellites into space for four US government clients: NASA, the US Air Force, SOCOM (Special Operations Command) and DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).

Beck said some US government clients preferred Rocket Lab to have a US launch site.

However, the Kiwi-American company is also upgrading and expanding its assembly plant in Auckland and its Launch Complex One on the Mahia Peninsula.

Beck said NZ would remain Rocket Lab's high-frequency launch location because of our skies and sea lanes - which, compared to the US East Coast - are empty.

His company is currently on a drive to hire another 100 staff, which will take its total complement to around 600 - most of whom are employed in NZ.