Rocket Lab USA, Inc, a global leader in launch and space systems, has acquired SailGP Technologies’ world-class manufacturing complex in Warkworth, New Zealand – bolstering the company’s New Zealand business and retaining more than 90% of SailGP Technologies New Zealand based staff. SailGP Technologies is relocating its operations to the UK to more effectively support the growing league.
SailGP Technologies has been a close partner and supplier to Rocket Lab, providing selected advanced composite materials and components for the Electron rocket. From this week, Rocket Lab – who pioneered the use of carbon composites in space by developing the world’s first carbon composite orbital rocket – will lease SailGP Technologies’ 70,000 square foot development and manufacturing complex in Warkworth.
More than 50 SailGP Technologies New Zealand based team members will remain at the facility and join the Rocket Lab team, supporting a growing production rate for the Electron rocket and the rapid development of Neutron, Rocket Lab’s new 13,000 kg payload class rocket. As part of the transition, Rocket Lab will retain the facilities’ advanced manufacturing equipment including an autoclave, ovens, composite material cutting plotters, CNC metal machining equipment, and large-scale CNC composite machining equipment to support accelerated R&D and production.
Founded in 2001 as Core Builders Composites (CBC), the Warkworth facility has in recent years become heavily focussed on building and maintaining the cutting-edge F50 catamarans used in SailGP’s global racing league – one of the world’s fastest growing sport leagues – which accounts for around 80% of its work.
With 85% of SailGP events being staged in the northern hemisphere – growing from five to thirteen events since its inaugural season, the league will relocate its manufacturing facility to Southampton near SailGP’s global headquarters in London, England. SailGP Technologies will transition its operations to the South Coast of England from November this year, with the aim of being fully operational by April 2024.
Rocket Lab CEO and Founder Peter Beck said: “We’ve had the privilege of working with the SailGP Technologies team for a number of years now supporting advanced carbon composite manufacturing for Electron.
"They’re an absolutely world-class team and we’re excited to welcome them into the Rocket Lab fold. The transition from sea to skies ensures we keep advanced composites talent and expertise in New Zealand, supporting the ongoing growth of the nation’s thriving aerospace industry. We wish SailGP all the very best as they embark on an exciting new chapter in the UK and will be cheering the sport on as it continues to grow globally.”
SailGP CEO Sir Russell Coutts said: “As we continue a steep growth trajectory in markets around the world, we are looking forward to moving our technology and innovation arm closer to our global headquarters, events, teams, and world-class racing, most of which are located in the northern hemisphere.
“The knowledge and commitment of our Warkworth team has been vital to the success of SailGP. With experience honed across more than two decades, they’re among the best in the business and we’re delighted that their skills, expertise and experience can remain in New Zealand for many years to come. We know the team at Rocket Lab will benefit from their skills and the staff are all really excited to be joining Rocket Lab for what promises to be an incredible future ahead.”
The news follows the implementation of a new regional structure in Asia Pacific to enhance the league’s commercial program in New Zealand, Australia and other Asian markets.
This includes the recent appointment of Chae Blewitt as Head of Commercial, APAC. Blewitt – who will be responsible for driving the growth of partnerships across the region – brings with him extensive marketing and business growth experience from working across Spark Sport, Reel Factory, and Warner Bros. Discovery (then Mediaworks) and other properties. After delivering what many regarded as one of SailGP’s best events, the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix in Christchurch earlier this year, Karl Budge stepped down as APAC Commercial Director at the end of September to pursue other opportunities.
SailGP will continue to maintain a strong presence in New Zealand, including the ITM New Zealand Sail Grand Prix, which alternates between Auckland and Christchurch as part of a four-season partnership with New Zealand Major Events and the respective host cities, as well as the New Zealand SailGP Team, led by co-CEOs Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.