Rocket Lab Announces New Reusable Rocket and Plans to Go Public

The new model will deploy satellite mega-constellations and is 'capable of human spaceflight.'
Chris Young
Rocket Lab's Electron (left) and Neutron.Rocket Lab

It is not a slow news day for fans of Rocket Lab, the company that plans to retrieve reusable thrusters using helicopters and parachutes.

Today, March 1, the California-based space company announced it has agreed to go public via a merger with a blank-check firm backed by private equity firm Vector Capital, a Reuters report explains.

Shortly after that announcement was made, Rocket Lab also released a press statement unveiling plans for a new reusable rocket more than double the height of its Electron spacecraft at 131 feet (40 meters) tall.

The new launch vehicle, called Neutron, is designed to carry 8 metric tons (approximately 18,000 lb) to orbit. Compared with Rocket Lab's current Electron rocket's ability to carry 660 lb that's quite a boost in load capacity.

Rocket Lab Announces New Reusable Rocket and Plans to Go Public
Rocket Labs' Neutron rocket will greatly expand its capacity for mega-constellation deployment, Source: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab says Neutron will have a fully reusable first-stage that will launch from an ocean landing platform, in a similar fashion to SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster.

"Initially designed for satellite payloads, Neutron will also be capable of International Space Station (ISS) resupply and human spaceflight missions," the Rocket Lab press release reads, outlining Rocket Lab's sky-high (and beyond) ambitions.

First Neutron launch expected in 2024

The company says Neutron will help it meet increased demand from customers to launch large multi-satellite constellations — with its heavier lift, the rocket will be able to get entire constellations in orbit quicker.

The Neutron rocket will launch from Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at NASA Wallops Flight Facility. 

"By leveraging the existing launch pad and integration infrastructure at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, Rocket Lab eliminates the need to build a new pad, accelerating the timeline to first launch, expected in 2024," Rocket Lab says.

Rocket Lab also explains that it intends to build a new Neutron production facility somewhere in the U.S. to scale up production of its new rocket.

Founded in New Zealand by Peter Beck in 2006, Rocket Lab still launches a portion of its missions from New Zealand although its HQ is now located in LA. Following the company's SPAC merger, Rocket Lab will have a pro forma enterprise value of $4.1 billion.

Rocket Lab has performed for the U.S. government, including national security payloads. Another firm, Relativity Space, also recently announced a second larger, and 3D-printed rocket, the Terran R.

The list of private space ventures continues to grow at a similar pace to the number of satellite constellations lighting up the night sky.

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