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Top rocket scientist delivers keynote at USU's Small Sat Conference

Peter Beck, founder of Rocket Lab, at Small Sat 2022
Sheri Quinn
Peter Beck, founder of Rocket Lab, at Small Sat 2022

Peter Beck, founder, CEO, and chief engineer of Rocket Lab opened the Small Satellite conference on August 8 with a video presentation from his home country of New Zealand. He fell ill with food poisoning just before boarding his flight to the U.S. to present the keynote address at Small Sat this week. Despite that, he presented an inspiring virtual talk about his company and the future of the aerospace industry to hundreds and hundreds of people.

His Electron rocket launch vehicle has become the second most launched U.S. rocket and his company’s satellite subsystems have been featured on more than 1700 spacecraft on orbit.

"It’s a great honor to be the keynote, thank you for still finding a way that I could still do it," said Peter Beck.

He said his talk, titled from Drainpipe to the Moon, sums up Rocket Lab’s journey to date, which started in 2006 when he founded the company. He went on to say it all really got started when he got hooked on space as a young boy, when his father took him out often to look at the night sky and pointed out the stars, suns and planets.

There was no space industry there at the time, but he said luckily his parents were supportive and helped him follow his dreams. Now, he provides frequent access to space for civil, defense, and commercial customers.

During the Q&A portion of the address, Beck said he is deeply passionate about planetary exploration" and said he has a real soft spot for Venus, saying it is the most under rated planet in our solar system and the planet we can learn the most from.

"These kinds of missions can be very valuable, both scientifically and commercially," said Beck.

The conference takes place through Thursday, August 11. Listen for Utah Public Radio’s series of coverage this week from the 36th Annual Small Satellite Conference this week.

Sheri's career in radio began at 7 years old in Los Angeles, California with a secret little radio tucked under her bed that she'd fall asleep with, while listening to The Dr. Demento Radio Show. She went on to produce the first science radio show in Utah in 1999 and has been reporting local, national and international stories ever since. After a stint as news director at KZYX on northern California's Lost Coast, she landed back at UPR in 2021.