A new book reveals Elon Musk once praised a rival New Zealand rocket CEO in a 2018 phone call.
Musk said it was "impressive" that Rocket Lab launched a rocket into orbit before Blue Origin, per the book.
The company, now worth $1.84 billion, is helmed by Peter Beck, who never attended college.
An excerpt from an upcoming book reveals Elon Musk once took a swipe at fellow billionaire and space enthusiast Jeff Bezos while praising a New Zealand CEO for beating the Amazon founder's Blue Origin to orbit.
"It is impressive that they managed to reach orbit," Musk told his former biographer and journalist Ashlee Vance in a 2018 phone conversation about the California-based company Rocket Lab, according an excerpt published on Bloomberg. "It's f---ing hard. Bezos has spent a shitload of money, and he hasn't made it," he said, according to the book.
Like SpaceX, Rocket Lab has been able to launch rockets into orbit — something Bezos' Blue Origin company has not yet achieved. The $1.84 billion company, which went public in 2021 via a SPAC merger, now trades on the Nasdaq.
The achievement of reaching orbit is even more impressive when you contrast Rocket Lab's CEO, Peter Beck, with Musk and Bezos. Beck, who hails from southern New Zealand, isn't a billionaire and didn't attend college. Instead of college, which Beck told Vance "never felt" right for him, he entered the die-making trade "because it's hard." He worked at a dishwasher manufacturer and did research in a government lab early in his career, Vance wrote.
Beck founded Rocket Lab in 2006, which claims to be the first private company to complete a successful launch to space from the Southern Hemisphere with its 2009 launch of the Atea-1 rocket. In 2018, the startup reached orbit for the first time. The startup recently launched its first batch of monitoring satellites, called TROPICS, for NASA. In March, Rocket Lab launched its 35th Electron rocket just a week after launching its 34th Electron rocket.
Blue Origin has launched rockets before, but they have been suborbital, reaching just the edge of outer space. The company reportedly has plans to launch a rocket called New Glenn that would be capable of reaching orbit in 2024.
Neither Rocket Lab, Blue Origin, nor Musk responded to Insider's requests for comment.
Despite being known for being outspoken, Musk didn't have much more to say about Rocket Lab and its founder during the 2018 phone call, Vance wrote. However, the Tesla CEO has talked a lot about Bezos and Blue Origin over the years, sometimes poking fun and sometimes being cordial.
Musk and Bezos' space rivalry reportedly started at a dinner in 2004, when the two met to discuss how they both wanted to make reusable rockets.
"I actually did my best to give good advice, which he largely ignored," Musk said, according to a book called "The Space Barons."
However, there have been some compliments exchanged too. In 2020, Bezos publicly wrote on Instagram that he was impressed by SpaceX's test of its Starship rocket.
"Anybody who knows how hard this stuff is is impressed by today's Starship test," Bezos said. "Big congrats to the whole @SpaceX team. I'm confident they'll be back at it soon."
For space fans, the full excerpt from Vance's book is well worth the read — it offers a rich deep dive into Beck and Rocket Lab's founding story and rise. You can read the full excerpt from "When the Heavens Went on Sale" over on Bloomberg, or pre-order the book here.
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