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  • So what I'm going to talk about here is, this is a power station.

  • So if you've ever wondered

  • what a couple of million horsepower looked like,

  • that's pretty much what it looks like.

  • And for me, it's always been about the rocket.

  • In fact so much so that when I was growing up,

  • the school called in my parents to have a bit of a discussion,

  • because they believed that my aspirations

  • were unrealistic for what I wanted to do.

  • (Laughter)

  • And they suggested that I take up a job at the local aluminium smelter,

  • because I was very good with my hands.

  • But for me, aluminium, or as you Canadians say, "aluminum,"

  • was not part of my plan at all.

  • So I started building rockets when I was at school.

  • They got bigger and bigger.

  • I actually hold an unofficial land speed record

  • for a rocket bike and roller blades

  • while wearing a rocket pack.

  • (Laughter)

  • But as the rockets got larger and larger,

  • and more and more complex,

  • I started to be able to think I could do something with this.

  • Now today we hear about very large rockets

  • taking humans to, or aspiring to take humans to,

  • the Moon, and Mars and beyond.

  • And that's really important,

  • but there's a revolution going on in the space industry,

  • and it's not a revolution of the big,

  • it's a revolution of the small.

  • So here we have an average-to-large-sized spacecraft in 1990.

  • We can tell it's 1990 because of the powder blue smocks

  • for all the trained in the clean rooms in 1990.

  • But that was your average-to-large-sized spacecraft in 1990.

  • Here's a spacecraft that's going to launch this year.

  • This particular spacecraft has four high-resolution cameras,

  • a whole lot of senors, a CoMP communication system.

  • We're going to launch thousands of these into the solar system

  • to look for extraterrestrial life.

  • Quite different.

  • You see that Moore's law really applied itself to spacecraft.

  • However, the rockets that we've been building

  • have been designed for carrying these very large,

  • school-bus-sized spacecraft to orbit.

  • But this kind of launch vehicle here is not very practical

  • for launching something that will fit on the tip of my finger.

  • And to give you a sense of scale here,

  • this rocket is so large that I inserted a picture of myself

  • in my underpants, in complete confidence,

  • knowing that you will not be able to find me.

  • That's how big this rocket actually is.

  • (Laughter)

  • Moving on.

  • (Laughter)

  • So this is our rocket -- it's called the Electron.

  • It's a small launch vehicle

  • for lifting these small payloads into orbit.

  • And the key here is not the size of the rocket --

  • the key here is frequency.

  • If you actually wanted to democratize space

  • and enable access to space,

  • launch frequency is the absolute most important thing

  • out of all of this.

  • Now in order to really democratize space, there's three things you have to do.

  • And each one of these three things has kind of the equivalent amount of work.

  • So the first is, obviously, you have to build a rocket.

  • The second is regulatory, and the third is infrastructure.

  • So let's talk a little bit about infrastructure.

  • So this is our launch site --

  • it's obviously not Cape Canaveral,

  • but it's a little launch site --

  • in fact, it's the only private orbiter launch site

  • in the entire world, down in New Zealand.

  • And you may think that's a bit of an odd place

  • to build a rocket company and a launch site.

  • But the thing is that every time you launch a rocket,

  • you have to close down around about 2,000 kilometers of airspace,

  • 2,000 kilometers of marine and shipping space,

  • and ironically, it's one of the things in America

  • that doesn't scale very well,

  • because every time you close down all that airspace,

  • you disrupt all these travelers trying to get to their destination.

  • The airlines really hate rocket companies,

  • because it costs them around $70,000 a minute, and so on.

  • So what you really need,

  • if you want to truly have rapid access to space,

  • is a reliable and frequent access to space,

  • is you need, basically, a small island nation

  • in the middle of nowhere, with no neighbors and no air traffic.

  • And that just happened to be New Zealand.

  • (Laughter)

  • So, that's kind of the infrastructure bit.

  • Now the next bit of that is regulatory.

  • So, believe it or not,

  • New Zealand is not known for its space prowess,

  • or at least it wasn't.

  • And you can't just rock on up to a country

  • with what is essentially considered an ICBM,

  • because unfortunately, if you can put a satellite into orbit,

  • you can use that rocket for doing significantly nasty things.

  • So quickly, you run afoul of a whole lot of rules and regulations,

  • and international treaties

  • of the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and whatnot.

  • So it becomes quite complex.

  • So in order for us to launch down in New Zealand,

  • we had to get the United States government and the New Zealand government

  • to agree to sign a bilateral treaty.

  • And then once that bilateral treaty was signed

  • to safeguard the technology,

  • the New Zealand government had a whole lot of obligations.

  • And they had to create a lot of rules and regulations.

  • In fact, they had to pass laws through a select committee

  • and through Parliament, ultimately, and to complete laws.

  • Once you have laws, you need somebody who administers them.

  • So they had to create a space agency.

  • And once they did, the Aussies felt left out,

  • so they had to create a space agency.

  • And on and on it goes.

  • So you see, there's a massive portion of this, in fact,

  • two thirds of it, that does not even involve the rocket.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, let's talk about the rocket.

  • You know, what I didn't say

  • is that we're actually licensed to launch every 72 hours for the next 30 years.

  • So we have more launch availability as a private company

  • than America does as an entire country.

  • And if you've got a launch every 72 hours,

  • then that means you have to build a rocket every 72 hours.

  • And unfortunately, there's no such thing as just a one-stop rocket shop.

  • You can't go and buy bits to build a rocket.

  • Every rocket is absolutely bespoke,

  • every component is absolutely bespoke.

  • And you're in a constant battle with physics every day.

  • Every single day, I wake up and I battle physics.

  • And I'll give you an example of this.

  • So on the side of our rocket, there's a silver stripe.

  • The reason is because there's avionic components behind there.

  • We needed to lower the emissivity of the skin

  • so we didn't cook the components from the sunlight.

  • So we paint a silver stripe.

  • Unfortunately, as you're sailing through the Earth's atmosphere,

  • you generate a lot of static electricity.

  • And if you don't have conductive paint,

  • you'll basically send lightning bolts down to the Earth.

  • So even the silver paint has to be triboelectrificated

  • and certified and applied and everything,

  • and the stickers, they're a whole nother story.

  • But even the simplest thing is always, always a real struggle.

  • Now, to the heart of any launch vehicle is the engine.

  • This is our Rutherford rocket engine.

  • And usually, you measure rocket engines

  • in terms of time to manufacture, in terms of sort of months

  • or even sometimes years, on really big engines.

  • But if you're launching every 72 hours --

  • there's 10 engines per rocket --

  • then you need to produce an engine very quickly.

  • We needed to come up with a whole new process

  • and a whole new cycle for the rocket engine.

  • We came up with a new cycle called the electric turbo pump,

  • but we also managed to be able to 3D-print these rocket engines.

  • So each one of these engines is 3D-printed out of Inconel superalloy,

  • and right now, we can print round about one engine every 24 hours.

  • Now, the electric turbo pump cycle

  • is a totally different way to pump propellant

  • into the rocket engine.

  • So we carry about one megawatt where the battery is on board.

  • And we have little electric turbo pumps, about the size of a Coke can,

  • not much bigger than a Coke can.

  • They spin at 42,000 RPM,

  • and each one of those Coke-can-sized turbo pumps

  • produces about the same amount of horsepower

  • as your average family car,

  • and we have 20 of them on the rocket.

  • So you can see even the simplest thing, like pumping propellants,

  • always pretty much drives you insane.

  • This is Electron, it works.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • Not only does it work once, it seems to work quite frequently,

  • which is handy when you've got a lot of customers to put on orbit.

  • So far, we've put 25 satellites in orbit.

  • And the really cool thing

  • is we're able to do it very, very accurately.

  • In fact, we insert the satellites to within an accuracy of 1.4 kilometers.

  • And I guess if you're riding in a cab,

  • 1.4 kilometers is not very accurate.

  • But in, kind of, space terms,

  • that equates to around about 180 milliseconds.

  • We travel 1.4 kilometers in about 180 milliseconds.

  • So, it's actually quite hard to do.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, what I want to talk about here is space junk.

  • We've talked a lot during this talk about, you know,

  • how we want to launch really frequently, every 72 hours,

  • and all the rest of it.

  • However, I don't want to go down in history

  • as the guy that put the most amount of space junk in orbit.

  • This is kind of the industry's dirty little secret here,

  • what most people don't realize is that the majority of space junk by mass

  • is not actually satellites, it's dead rockets.

  • Because as you ascend to orbit,

  • you have to shed bits of the rocket to get there,

  • with the battle of physics.

  • So I'm going to give a little Orbital Mechanics 101 here,

  • and talk about how we go to orbit,

  • and how we do it really, really differently from everybody else.

  • So the second stage cruises along

  • and then we separate off a thing at the top called the kick stage,

  • but we leave the second stage in this highly elliptical orbit.

  • And at the perigee of the orbit, or the lowest point,

  • it dips into the Earth's atmosphere and basically burns back up.

  • So now we're left with this little kick stage,

  • that white thing on the corner of the screen.

  • It's got its own propulsion system,

  • and we use it to raise and trim the orbit

  • and then deploy the spacecraft.

  • And then because it's got its own engine, we put it into a retro orbit,

  • put it back into a highly elliptical orbit,

  • reenter it into the atmosphere and burn it back up,

  • and leave absolutely nothing behind.

  • Now everybody else in the industry is just downright filthy,

  • they just leave their crap everywhere out there.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • So I want to tell you a little bit of a story,

  • and this is going to date me,

  • but I went to a school at the very bottom of the South Island in New Zealand,

  • tiny little school,

  • and we had a computer not dissimilar to this one.

  • And attached to that computer was a little black box called a modem,

  • and every Friday, the class would gather around the computer

  • and we would send an email to another school in America

  • that was lucky enough to have the same kind of setup,

  • and we would receive an email back.

  • And we thought that was just incredible, absolutely incredible.

  • Now I often wonder

  • what would happen if I traveled back in time

  • and I sat down with myself

  • and I explained all of the things that were going to occur

  • because of that little black box connected to the computer.

  • You would largely think that it would be complete fantasy.

  • But the reality is that is where we are right now with space.

  • We're right on the verge of democratizing space,

  • and we have essentially sent our first email to space.

  • Now I'll give you some examples.

  • So last year, we flew a small satellite

  • for a bunch of high school students who had built it.

  • And the high school students were studying the atmosphere of Venus.

  • Those are high school students launching their own satellite.

  • Another great example,

  • there's a number of really big programs right now

  • to place large constellations, of small satellites in orbit

  • to deliver internet to every square millimeter on the planet.

  • And for pretty much everybody in this room,

  • that's just handy,