Mar 1, 2021 - Economy

Small satellite launcher Rocket Lab is going public

Illustration of a spaceship made from a checkbook flying through outer space

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Rocket Lab, a company that has built its business on launching small satellites to space, is going public via a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

Why it matters: The announcement comes after a number of other space companies — including Virgin Galactic, Astra and Momentus — have made plans to begin trading publicly via SPAC.

  • Going public via SPAC could be a good way for space companies to find new avenues of funding that aren’t dependent on government or private investors.

Details: Rocket Lab's merger with the SPAC Vector Industries is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2021, when the company will be listed on the Nasdaq under RKLB.

  • Rocket Lab, which is based in the U.S. and New Zealand, also announced Monday that it is planning to build a new, larger rocket with its first test flight expected in 2024.
  • The rocket — called Neutron — is designed to launch satellites for mega-constellations, interplanetary missions and human spaceflight.
  • "Efficiently building the mega constellations of the future requires launching multiple satellites in batches to different orbital planes," Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said in a statement. "It’s a requirement that all too often sees large launch vehicles fly with payloads well below their full lift capacity, which is an incredibly expensive and inefficient way to build out a satellite constellation."

The big picture: Rocket Lab has taken 97 satellites to orbit so far using its Electron rocket, and its Photon spacecraft can be used for interplanetary and orbital missions.

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