Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a global leader in launch services and space systems, today announced that it has signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) to explore the possibility of using the Company’s Neutron and Electron launch vehicles to transport cargo around the world. The agreement will also see Rocket Lab explore using Photon spacecraft to establish on-orbit cargo depots and deliver re-entry capability.
The CRADA enables the collaborative investigation between USTRANSCOM and Rocket Lab to explore Neutron, Electron and Photon capabilities, informing the Rocket Cargo program led by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the U.S. Space Force. Rocket Cargo is one of the Air Force’s Vanguard programs designed to advance emerging systems and concepts through prototyping and experimentation to deliver remarkable new capabilities. The program seeks to explore the viability of space launch to deliver improvements in delivery cost and speed compared to existing air cargo operations.
“Point-to-point space transportation offers a new ability to move equipment quickly around the world in hours, enabling a faster response to global emergencies and natural disasters,” says Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. “Electron is already a proven and reliable launch vehicle and we’ve demonstrated its adaptability with programs like reusability and our recent CAPSTONE mission to the Moon for NASA, so we’re no stranger to exploring expanded use cases for Electron. Neutron builds on Electron’s capability with a much larger payload capacity, and it’s designed for frequent reflight, making it a perfect fit to enable fast deployment of vital resources while eliminating the en-route stops and air refueling required by air cargo solutions. Topping it off with Photon cargo depots on orbit provides a well-rounded approach to the future of rapid global deployment. We’re excited to be collaborating with USTRANSCOM on this forward-thinking, innovative research program that could ultimately shift the way the Department of Defense considers logistics response options.”
“Rocket Lab USA will help the Federal government understand commercial rocket capabilities for future logistics missions,” added Mr. Jamie Malak, the CRADA’s government project lead at AFRL. “USTRANSCOM and its global Combatant Command customers have been constrained to logistics at the speed of conventional aircraft—or often far less—for their entire history. Now we can look to transport critical military cargo an order of magnitude faster than ever before. We will explore how to integrate rocket cargo systems in Defense logistics processes and how to make space transportation a reliable and practical option for operations of the future.”
USTRANSCOM oversees global military logistics operations and uses CRADAs to evaluate commercial technologies for possible fielding. The agreements team industry, academia, and their specific technologies with DOD future thinkers to anticipate uses, feasibility, value, and costs.
Neutron is Rocket Lab’s medium-lift, reusable launch vehicle in development. Designed to deliver reliable and cost-effective launch for payloads to low Earth orbit and beyond. With a large seven-meter fairing and a payload lift capacity of 13 tonnes in a downrange landing configuration, Neutron is ideal for both constellation deployment and large single spacecraft missions. Development and manufacturing of the Neutron rocket is based at Rocket Lab’s Production Complex in Wallops, Virginia within the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. Neutron’s first launch pad will also be located at the spaceport near the Company’s existing pad for the Electron rocket.
Electron is Rocket Lab’s small launch vehicle, capable of launching payloads of up to 320kg / 705 lbs to low Earth orbit and interplanetary destinations. Since the first Electron lift-off in 2017, Rocket Lab has launched 29 Electron missions deploying 149 spacecraft to orbit for civil, defense, intelligence and commercial customers. Rocket Lab operates three launch pads for Electron. The first two are located at Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, the world’s first private orbital launch site. A third Electron launch pad is located at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia.
Photon is Rocket Lab’s in-house designed and built small spacecraft. Photon is based on the heritage Electron launch vehicle Kick Stage, leveraging numerous components that have significant flight heritage, including the Curie engine, an in-house designed and developed in-space propulsion system. A highly configurable platform, Photon Configurable can be adapted for a range missions in LEO, MEO, GEO, and beyond, including lunar and planetary. A lunar-capable version of Photon was used by Rocket Lab to successfully complete the CAPSTONE Moon mission for NASA in 2022, sending a CubeSat to a ballistic lunar transfer in the first mission of the Artemis program.
About Rocket Lab
Rocket Lab (Nasdaq: RKLB) is a global leader in space, delivering proven and reliable space services spanning launch, spacecraft manufacture, satellite subsystems, flight software, and on-orbit operations.
This press release may contain certain “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. All statements, other than statements of historical facts, contained in this press release, including statements regarding our expectations of financial results for the second quarter of 2022, strategy, future operations, future financial position, projected costs, prospects, plans and objectives of management, are forward-looking statements. Words such as, but not limited to, “anticipate,” “aim,” “believe,” “contemplate,” “continue,” “could,” “design,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “may,” “might,” “plan,” “possible,” “potential,” “predict,” “project,” “seek,” “should,” “suggest,” “strategy,” “target,” “will,” “would,” and similar expressions or phrases, or the negative of those expressions or phrases, are intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain these identifying words. These forward-looking statements are based on Rocket Lab’s current expectations and beliefs concerning future developments and their potential effects. These forward-looking statements involve a number of risks, uncertainties (many of which are beyond Rocket Lab’s control), or other assumptions that may cause actual results or performance to be materially different from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Many factors could cause actual future events to differ materially from the forward-looking statements in this press release, including risks related to the global COVID-19 pandemic; risks related to government restrictions and lock-downs in New Zealand and other countries in which we operate that could delay or suspend our operations; delays and disruptions in expansion efforts; our dependence on a limited number of customers; the harsh and unpredictable environment of space in which our products operate which could adversely affect our launch vehicle and spacecraft; increased congestion from the proliferation of low Earth orbit constellations which could materially increase the risk of potential collision with space debris or another spacecraft and limit or impair our launch flexibility and/or access to our own orbital slots; increased competition in our industry due in part to rapid technological development and decreasing costs; technological change in our industry which we may not be able to keep up with or which may render our services uncompetitive; average selling price trends; failure of our launch vehicles, spacecraft and components to operate as intended either due to our error in design in production or through no fault of our own; launch schedule disruptions; supply chain disruptions, product delays or failures; design and engineering flaws; launch failures; natural disasters and epidemics or pandemics; changes in governmental regulations including with respect to trade and export restrictions, or in the status of our regulatory approvals or applications; or other events that force us to cancel or reschedule launches, including customer contractual rescheduling and termination rights; risks that acquisitions may not be completed on the anticipated time frame or at all or do not achieve the anticipated benefits and results; and the other risks detailed from time to time in Rocket Lab’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), including under the heading “Risk Factors” in Rocket Lab’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021, which was filed with the SEC on March 24, 2022, and elsewhere (including that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may also exacerbate the risks discussed therein). There can be no assurance that the future developments affecting Rocket Lab will be those that we have anticipated. Except as required by law, Rocket Lab is not undertaking any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.