A couple of weeks ago, after having yet another global space industry luminary ask if we knew "that rocket company in New Zealand", curiosity finally got the best of this correspondent and a call to Peter Beck, CEO of New Zealand's Rocket Lab had to be made.
Timing was perfect – here's what came back:
"Oh but hang on, its in NZ. And the last time you got Invited to a top secret launch party for a new space launcher was...?!" Arguing with self while quietly slipping in to rocket booster party outfit was tricky, but the South Pacific beckoned and before you could say 'land of the long white cloud', we were off.
And here's what we found ! A super-cool, international team of entrepreneurs and engineers...
...gathered together at Rocket Lab HQ, in front of what is, without doubt, the coolest trophy cabinet ever...
...and of course Peter himself, unveiling the exciting, all-composite Electron Launch System, powered by Rocket Lab's own, patent-pending Rutherford rocket engine.
And here she is – what a beauty – Electron is 18m in length, 1m diameter and will weigh more than 10 tons at liftoff. This will be the first vehicle of its class capable of delivering payloads up to 100kg into low Earth orbits up to 500km altitude, with the first flight planned for 2015.
Here's your correspondent posing alongside the first carbon-composite mockup:
Even more inspiring: after an 8-year journey to develop and test their launch solutions technology, Peter's perseverance paid off with top-tier Silicon Valley VC Khosla Ventures agreeing to back his vision:
Average price of a dedicated launch service today is around US$133m. Rocket Lab's goal: US$4.9m
Well done Peter & crew, was great to be with you at this key milestone for Rocket Lab and indeed all space entrepreneurs in the region. Looking forwards to flying with you in 2015!