back to article Rocket Lab CEO reflects on company's humble beginnings as a drainpipe

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck spoke at the SmallSat 2022 conference and offered up words of wisdom for anyone pondering an entry into the lighter end of the launch market. After apologizing for his virtual presence – Beck had sensed an imminent propulsive emission of his own before boarding and wisely swapped a 20-hour flight for …

  1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Sadly there is a LOT of talk in the small satellite world and far less actual action.

    Well done Peter Beck for delivering on your dream!

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Easier to change words than metal

      There aren't enough small satellites for the currently operational small rockets. The more alert small rocket companies are now talking about medium sized rockets. Perhaps a couple of them will reach orbit before the rest realise they have to talk about large rockets...

  2. Chris Evans


    I was very impressed with what he was saying until he said "the engines were at 110 per cent the whole time" hyperbole is not something you want to hear from a rocket scientist, so downgraded to 'impressed'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 110%

      Running engines over 100% is common in rocketry. The early designs and prototype engines set the 100% mark, so it's quite common for later revisions to be better. The power outputs are still referenced to the original designs, meaning 110% isn't unusual.

      The shuttle used to regularly throttle the engines to 107%.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: 110%

        Engine output is also calculated at a specific altitude at optimal fuel/oxidizer ratio and the turbo pumps running at designed optimal head pressure and flow. By increasing the rocket chamber pressure and thus making the pumps run at slightly above optimal settings engine efficiency (specific impulse) is slightly increased lower in the atmosphere. IIRC the space shuttle engines were designed to run at 500.000 lbs of thrust, but design optimization resulted in them running at aprox. 540.000 lbs (108%) and they could actually throttle to 115% (Which they would only do if the shuttle lost the center engine in the later stages of launch for a once around abort or abort to orbit).

      2. Chris Evans

        Re: 110%

        Thanks for explaining that. I'm so used to being annoyed by people in sport asking for 110% effort I hadn't realised the subtilty of exceeding design output.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 110%

          It's the same with volume controls that go up to 11 :-)

        2. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: 110%

          However, in sport (just like in design), you should revise your design output at the point where you regularly (and consistently) exceed your design output to the margin you waffle on about :-)

          There's only so long you can waffle on about having given 110% before it starts to sound awfully clichéed.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 110%

          FWIW, same story with turbofan engines, where 100% RPM on a given stage is just a reference number.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: 110%

            On gas turbines, 100% is usually the continuous rating where exceeding it comes with rapidly dimininishing lifespans due to heat/blade stress in the turbines

            On electric motors, 100% is usually the continuous rating where exceeding it comes with thermal penalties and you risk melting down the windings/insulation breakdown if the motor overheats(*)

            (*) My ancient EV's motor is rated for 24kW continuous, 48kW for 5 minutes or 64kW for one minute. People have tweaked it to get significantly higher output (over 100kW) by bumping up cooling flow and/or limiting peak power duration and/or tighter thermal management - the ultimate limitation is how much torque the gearbox can transmit before self-destructing - it's impressive for being a bog-standard heavy-duty forklift motor at heart)

  3. 105kayem

    “A high-voltage connection was not quite perfect. Good enough to pass testing but, when the rocket was flying, the potting compound around the joint melted and liquefied. A short resulted in an electrical spike and "that was the end of that.”

    I’m always astonished at the level of detail possible in these post “ the rocket blew up “ events and curious as to how they manage to analyse the exact cause.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Lots and lots of very precise data logging on almost every single channel at multiple points of the vehicle with accurate and synced timing. This makes it possible to trace which signals start getting lost at what time and position relative to one another. This would probably get them close to where they need to be. Then it becomes a deep dive into all data logged during production (measurement reports, photos, etc) to find anything that stands out and formulate theories on what might have failed for what reason. Put all of that together and they can quite accurately tell what is the most likely thing that happened, possibly performing some extra testing to prove or disprove the theories. Sometimes it remains guesswork though.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Also: finding what's left of the circuit board at the rocket crash site can explain quite a lot.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          That too, but I don't think recovery of the fragments from RUD at later stages of flight is usually an option (What with them landing in some of the most remote and deepest bits of ocean of our planet and spreading out over several square kilometers as they tumble down from several dozen kilometers up)

    2. DJO Silver badge

      Seems odd to use a thermoplastic potting compound in a very hot environment.

      There are non-melty potting compounds available but I suppose there's quite a difference between everyday "hot" and "rocket exhaust hot".

      1. Oglethorpe

        Liquefaction may not mean the same as it does in a thermoplastic. Some thermoset polymers will liquefy as they break down, just irreversibly.

      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        Sometimes you'll find that acceleration and/or vibration beyond certain parameters also leads to liquefaction, not just temperature. Maybe a combination of all three also lead to it here... ;-)

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Vibration tables used to flight test equipment have more than sufficient power to liquidise YOU

      The building they're housed in gets quite unpleasant to be in when tests are underway

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    And once you've made your perfect ELV....

    You throw it away and start all over again. Either part or whole.

    And as long as that patern persists space access will always be expensive

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