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Principal Development Engineer

Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab

Other Engineering
Auckland, New Zealand
Posted on Thursday, May 18, 2023

About The Role

Rocket Lab is a vertically integrated provider of small launch services, satellites, and spacecraft components. Our mission is to open access to space to improve life on Earth. Our team is over 1,500 people strong and we’re adding to it every week. Collaboration is at our core – every idea is heard, and everyone makes a difference. Teams are nimble, decisions are made quickly, and we are action oriented.

While other companies talk about it, we do it!

Rocket Lab seeks a Principal Development Engineer to help build the Neutron platform: Rocket Lab’s medium lift, reusable launch vehicle capable of human spaceflight. As a Principal Development Engineer, you work closely with structural analysts, designers, manufacturing engineers, and the prototyping team to develop and execute the design and certification strategy for mechanical structures and mechanisms across the Neutron launch vehicle.

Development Engineers combine technical excellence with strengths in technical planning and communication.

  • You will combine technical expertise in composite and/or metallic materials with a general understanding of elastomers, and thermal protection systems. Ideally, you have had direct hands-on experience in the design, manufacture, and/or maintenance of high-performance systems in industry (i.e. aerospace, marine, aviation).
  • You will be adept at managing to a plan, and comfortable adjusting in response to evolving requirements or external constraints.
  • You will be able to clearly describe Neutron’s design, verification, and certification strategy to internal and external customers, and to inspire a team to deliver this vision.

Day to day, your key responsibilities could include:

  • Work closely with mechanical engineers to rapidly assess conceptual designs, perform system trade studies, and develop integrated design solutions
  • Define and document material architectural decisions from a component to system level, such as: material selection, properties, and design allowables; process definition and control; inspection methods; and practices for continuous improvement
  • Design and coordinate/execute testing to generate material property databases for composite materials, thermal protection systems, and metallic components
  • Initiate, manage, and control projects including internal and external stakeholders to ensure they deliver on time, to scope, and within budget
  • Actively contribute to technical decision making including conceptual, preliminary, and critical design, test readiness, change management, and risk reviews
  • Proactively identify and solve technical challenges to allow projects to proceed at pace
  • Mentor and technically assist other engineers

Successful candidates in this role will thrive in ambiguity, and are excited to work in a small, high performing team focused on continued learning and growth. This position is ideal for an experienced, multidisciplinary engineer keen to support a complex project from conceptual design through to integration and launch.


  • Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Engineering (or equivalent experience)
  • 8+ year’s industry experience in the design, development, and test of material systems in a relevant technical field (i.e. Aviation, Aerospace, Automotive, Marine)
  • Demonstrated experience with composite or polymer materials and process development and qualification
  • Demonstrated experience with composites and related materials (prepregs, fibers, resins, cores, adhesives, coatings, etc.)
  • Demonstrated experience in Carbon Fibre Manufacturing processes, including:
    • Hand-lamination (carbon fibre, fiberglass, Kevlar, etc.)
    • Out-Of-Autoclave OOA material systems
    • Bonding operations
  • Experience in metallic material performance and characteristics
  • Proven track record of technical leadership and mentorship on projects from concept to completion.
  • Proven communication skills and the ability to build strong working relationships with colleagues and engineering professionals
  • The ability to work to tight deadlines within a high-pressure environment
  • Strong desire to learn new material in order to solve difficult, ambiguous challenges.


  • Knowledge of ASTM standards relevant to composite testing
  • Experience with Siemens Team Center / Infor LN
  • Experience transitioning products from prototype to production
  • Experience with soft materials used in structural applications
    (e.g. O-rings, seals, lubricants)
  • Experience in rapid composite tooling design and fabrication
  • Experience in one/some of the following competencies: additive manufacturing, heat treating, machining, welding of metallics
  • Experience with cryogenic and elevated temperature applications of non-metallic materials (pressurized and unpressurized)
  • Experience in aerospace adhesives and bonding processes
  • Familiarity with Automated Fibre Placement (AFP) process development (tool design, cure compensation, etc)
  • Familiarity with CAD software such as NX (Preferred), CATIA, SolidWorks, or Inventor
  • Familiarity with quality systems including change and configuration management
  • Hands-on experience including composite fabrication experience, mechanical testing, and/or thermal testing

Rocket Lab Employee Benefits:

  • The opportunity to work on innovative and ground-breaking technology
  • Access to world leading experts to develop your career
  • Unlimited barista coffee, fruit and snacks
  • Rocket Lab merchandise – T-shirts, mission patches etc.
  • Discounted health insurance with Southern Cross
  • Additional parental leave entitlements
  • A vibrant team culture with social activities throughout the year
  • An employee stock purchase program

Important information:


To conform to U.S. Government space technology export regulations, applicant must be a U.S. citizen as defined by ITAR (22 CFR §120.15) or eligible to obtain the required authorizations fromthe U.S Department of State.

Rocket Lab provides equal employment opportunities to all employees and applicants for employment and prohibits discrimination and harassment of any type without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability status, genetics, protected veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local laws. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment at Rocket Lab, including recruiting, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation and training.


For security reasons background checks will be undertaken prior to any employment offers being made to an applicant. These checks will include nationality checks as it is a requirement of this position that you be eligible to access equipment and data regulated by the United States' International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

Under these Regulations, you may be ineligible for this role if you do not hold citizenship of Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, the European Union or a country that is part of NATO, or if you hold ineligible dual citizenship or nationality. For more information on these Regulations, click here ITAR Regulations.

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