Rocket Lab To Debut As Mars Mission, Possible SpaceX Rivalry Loom

Rocket Lab (RKLB) will begin trading Wednesday after completing its merger with blank-check company Vector Acquisition (VAQC), and two days after winning NASA’s approval for a Mars mission.


The deal valued Rocket Lab at $4.1 billion. Gross proceeds to the space company totaled $777 million and are expected to help grow its space system businesses and fuel the development of its reusable Neutron rocket.

Rocket Lab stock will trade on the Nasdaq on the stock market today under the ticket RKLB.

CEO Peter Beck sees the Neutron rocket deploying “the constellations of the future, and supporting our potential future expansion into space applications.”

The Neutron is larger than Rocket Lab’s current Electron launch vehicle, which has already launched 97 satellites on 18 missions.

The Neutron can be used for human spaceflight as well as building large satellite constellations. The company plans to launch the rocket from NASA’s Wallops facility in Virginia.

That could position Rocket Lab as more of a competitor with SpaceX, which also launches humans into space and is building a massive Starlink satellites constellation.

Rocket Lab Lands Mars Mission

In addition to rockets, Rocket Lab is also developing a deep-space probe that’s headed to Mars.

On Tuesday, NASA approved Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft for the Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) mission to study Mars’ magnetosphere. The mission is scheduled to launch in 2024, arriving at Mars nearly a year later.

“The mission will also support crewed exploration programs like Artemis through improved solar storm prediction,” Rocket Lab said in a release.

But the mission won’t be flying on one of Rocket Lab’s rockets. Instead, the spacecraft will be aboard a NASA-approved launch vehicle.

Space Stocks Lift Off

A flurry of special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) have helped take space stocks public since Virgin Galactic (SPCE) debuted in 2019. SPACs offer a way for private companies to go public without an IPO. Instead of selling stock, the private enterprise merges with a shell company that’s already public.

Spire Global (SPIR), a small satellite provider, went public earlier this year through a merger with SPAC NavSight. Astra Space (ASTR)went public via Holicit in June and Momentus (MNTS) went public via Stable Road Acquisition.

Follow Gillian Rich on Twitter for space news and more.


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