Rocket Lab wants apprentices to build spaceships

By Bronson Perich
A Rocket Lab rocket blasts off from Mahia - Photo / Rocket Lab 

New Zealand aerospace company Rocket Lab has an interesting problem.

It needs assembly line technicians to help assemble its rockets.

Rocket Lab’s production director, Jamie France, says Rocket Lab has traditionally drawn from automotive, marine or aviation industries.

“But we build spaceships here," France says. "We’re taking those kinds of skillsets and we’re applying them to cover some of the unique stuff we do here at Rocket Lab.”

So the spaceship builders have teamed up with NZQA to create the country’s first aeronautical trade apprenticeship.

The lab’s engineers led the creation of the unit standards that make up the new qualification. So the qualification is relevant to Rocket Lab’s needs.

France says they hope to expand the apprenticeship to include cryogenics, 3D-printed parts and avionics.

At present, the apprenticeship is open to those in the aviation industry working toward aeronautical certification. Rocket Lab is looking to opening up the programme to high school leavers in 2021.

The Rocket Lab launch site - Video / Facebook

"New Zealand's by far the best place to launch rockets from."

In traditional Kiwi fashion, Rocket Lab made waves when it competed against Elon Musk's rocket company SpaceX for NASA contracts. It has blasted some 53 satellites into space from its Mahia peninsula launch platform.

France says it has stayed in Aotearoa because the country is one of the best places to launch a rocket from, and Kiwi engineers have a unique creativity.

That creativity led them to build the world's first carbon-composite launch vehicle that reduced the cost of sending satellites into space.