Hello, here are some updates on my aerospace journey so far. Last updated August 22nd, 2021.
In 2006, I was the first New Zealander to book with Virgin Galactic. It will be an exhilarating rocket-powered flight experience and I’m also pleased to support the advancement of aerospace technology. I believe it’s crucial for humanity to develop aerospace technology to find solutions to ease the burden on our planet. The Apollo Program sparked numerous innovations and, in the same way, the new commercial race to space will spin-out advances in energy systems, environmental systems, materials and communications. Our solar system holds all the minerals and energy that we need.
Virgin Galactic’s unique rocket plane accelerates to three times the speed of sound before reaching weightlessness at apogee, followed by a dynamic high-speed re-entry and finishing with a gentle glide onto a runway. On July 11th, 2021, Sir Richard Branson made his historic first flight on the VSS Unity.
“I have dreamt about this moment since I was a child, but nothing could have prepared me for the view of Earth from space. We are at the vanguard of a new space age. As Virgin’s founder, I was honoured to test the incredible customer experience as part of this remarkable crew of mission specialists and now astronauts. I can’t wait to share this experience with aspiring astronauts around the world.” Sir Richard Branson
After being inspired by the speakers at the International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles in 2006, I started looking around at aerospace opportunities to develop in New Zealand. I commenced commercial operations of Rocket Lab in 2007 with business partner Peter Beck. I was the seed investor and co-Director until 2011.
In 2007, it was an audacious goal to develop a space company in New Zealand. Compared to other space-faring nations, New Zealand had no government space program and no previous support for space enterprises. On November 30th, 2009 Rocket Lab launched a suborbital rocket from Great Mercury Island. Rocket Lab’s first Atea-1 (pictured left), called Manu Karere, lifted off at 2.28 pm and performed a full 22-second burn. Rocket Lab was the first private company in the Southern Hemisphere to reach space.
This early launch success and other aerospace technology development projects resulted in the company winning a range of international contracts. In 2013, Rocket Lab announced the commencement of an orbital program and reached orbit for the first time in 2018. It’s superb to see Rocket Lab going from strength to strength with ambitious plans for the future.
Kea Aerospace kicked off in 2018. We’d been looking for interesting aerospace opportunities and the solar-powered, stratospheric aircraft concept resonated on many levels. Read more about Kea Aerospace’s genesis story and the Kea Atmos aircraft.
It’s been an exciting journey so far as we build our team and establish our central city facility. Flight testing is progressing well and we’re aiming for a world-record attempt this summer. Check out the Kea Aerospace news page for regular updates.
Ōtautahi Christchurch is an outstanding location for the development of an aerospace hub. The University of Canterbury produces high-calibre graduates suited to the aerospace industry, there’s relatively open skies, an international airport and a seaport, and the city hosts New Zealand’s second-largest manufacturing hub. Christchurch is already a gateway to the Antarctic and there are now plans to make Christchurch a future gateway to space.
In 2018, I was part of a group that created the first aerospace meetups. We’ve now run over 20 meetups and have established an industry body called Aerospace Christchurch with an extensive network of members and associates. I’m very honoured to be on the Committee with a group of outstanding aerospace industry participants.