Rocket Lab CEO eats (part of) his hat revealing new rocket capable of human spaceflight

Neutron to begin launching in 2024 from Virginia

Rocket Lab's medium-lift rocket, Neutron. (Image: Rocket Lab) (Rocket Lab 2021)

The head of private space company Rocket Lab revealed it’s building a bigger rocket with human spaceflight and mega-constellations in mind during a video in which he literally ate part of a hat.

Rocket Lab, a California-based private company, is currently launching its small class Electron rocket from New Zealand and soon, Virginia.

CEO Peter Beck announced its latest venture in the unique style Rocket Lab has become known for during the past five years with mission names including “That’s a Funny Looking Cactus” and “Look Ma, No Hands.”

“Small launch was just the beginning,” the text over video reads during a montage showcasing the years of growth at the space startup established in 2006.

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“When we say we’re going to do something at Rocket Lab, we do it,” Beck says walking across the factory floor surrounded by rocket hardware.

Beck highlighted the company’s milestones including building the first carbon fiber launch vehicle, Electron, and then a customizable spacecraft known as the Photon. Rocket Lab plans to adapt the spacecraft to send a series of private robotic missions to Venus beginning in 2023.

However, Beck previously said the company would not be catching or attempting to reuse rocket parts and if they did he would “eat his hat.” Sticking to his word after going reusable after all, the CEO sat down at a dinner table in the video to take care of some unfinished business.

“There a lot of things at Rocket Lab that we said we would do that we’ve done, and also a few things we said we would never do, which we have also done,” Beck said referring to reusable rocketry while tucking a white linen napkin into his collar.

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck and Neutron (Rocket Lab 2021)

“It’s about time I finally ate the hat,” he said, placing a Rocket Lab baseball cap in a blending machine and then putting the blended up pieces in a martini glass. He took a bite of the destroyed ball cap before making his next announcement.

The company is building a bigger medium-lift rocket, an 8-ton class launch vehicle called Neutron and it’s reusable.

“One thing that’s probably more exciting and most unusual for Rocket Lab is that this vehicle is capable of human spaceflight,” Beck said.

Neutron is in development and set to begin launching in 2024, according to the company. The company is also looking to expand with its latest endeavor and scouting locations across the U.S. to build a new rocket factory which would mean hundreds of jobs.

The rocket will launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and is capable of International Space Station resupply and human spaceflight missions, according to a news release.

“We’ve listened to our customers and the message is clear - biggest doesn’t always mean best when it comes to constellation deployment,” Beck said in a news release. “Efficiently building the mega-constellations of the future requires launching multiple satellites in batches to different orbital planes. It’s a requirement that all too often sees large launch vehicles fly with payloads well below their full lift capacity, which is an incredibly expensive and inefficient way to build out a satellite constellation. Neutron’s 8-ton lift capacity will make it ideally sized to deploy satellites in batches to specific orbital planes, creating a more targeted and streamlined approach to building out mega constellations.”

NASA also has a deadline during the same year to return humans to the moon under the Artemis Program.

Rocket Lab also announced Monday it’s going public through a merger with Vector Acquisition. Rocket Lab is expected to close the deal in the second quarter of 2021. The deal values Rocket Lab at $4.1 billion.