Rocket Lab has had an impressive run over the past few years. Now, the spaceflight firm has announced plans to go public, The Verge reports. It will do so through a SPAC merger with Vector Acquisition Corporation and will change its name to Rocket Lab USA, Inc.
Moving forward, Rocket Lab will be listed on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol RKLB.
On top of its SPAC merger announcement, Rocket Lab announced plans for a new rocket, dubbed Neutron. The rocket will be more powerful than the company’s existing Electron rocket—and will reportedly be able to fly humans.
Most people think of SpaceX when discussing the private spaceflight industry. However, Rocket Lab has cemented itself as a respectable competitor—especially for lighter launches. In fact, the company currently leads the industry for small satellite launches. By going public with its SPAC merger, Rocket Lab will be able to raise additional funding for its pursuits.
The company’s CEO Peter Beck said in a statement, “This milestone accelerates Rocket Lab’s ability to unlock the full potential of space through our launch and spacecraft platforms and catalyzes our ambition to create a new multi-billion-dollar business vertical in space applications.”
The Verge notes that Rocket Lab will have an impressive $750 million in cash on hand once the deal is completed. It is expected to be finished by the second quarter of the year.
Using a SPAC to go public has become quite popular in the spaceflight sector. Multiple companies have taken that route in recent years, including Astra, another small launch firm, and Virgin Galactic.
Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle has been very successful for the company. It has flown 18 missions since 2017, including many paid launches with third-party companies and researchers.
Neutron will be a much larger rocket, standing over 130 feet tall. It is designed to be a direct competitor to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, according to The Verge.
Rocket Lab claims that Neutron will be able to carry humans and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). That would help it compete with SpaceX and Boeing for lucrative government contracts from NASA.
Interestingly, the announcement of Neutron forced Beck to eat his hat—literally. The CEO said that he would do so if Rocket Lab ever made a larger rocket than Electron or one that is reusable. During the Neutron announcement, Beck put an Electron hat in a blender and ate it on camera.
— Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) March 1, 2021
Aside from carrying humans, Neutron will also be capable of missions that require more power than Electron can provide. The company says that its new rocket is “tailored for mega constellations, deep space missions and human spaceflight.” It will have an eight-ton capacity for orbital flights.
Finally, Neutron is intended to be fully reusable. That will help Rocket Lab decrease its launch costs and make missions more accessible. The company intends to fly its Neutron rocket for the first time in 2024.
In the meantime, its SPAC merger will help it raise the necessary funding to develop the new launch vehicle while continuing to fly missions for existing customers.