Rocket Lab buys another US space systems firm, this time for US$42m

Author
Chris Keall, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 17 Nov 2021, 10:11AM
Planetary Systems Corporation (PSC) makes stage-separation hardware. (Photo / Supplied)
Planetary Systems Corporation (PSC) makes stage-separation hardware. (Photo / Supplied)

Rocket Lab buys another US space systems firm, this time for US$42m

Author
Chris Keall, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 17 Nov 2021, 10:11AM

Rocket Lab has made another acquisition with the US$750 million war chest it raised through its Nasdaq listing. 

The Kiwi-American company says it has bought Planetary Systems Corporation (PSC), a Maryland-based spacecraft separation systems, for US$42m ($59.5m). 

The two-decade old PSC has 25 staff, and counts its new owner among its customers - along with Nasa, the United Launch Alliance and Japan's national space agency. 

The deal was announced this morning NZT with the ink barely dry on Rocket Lab's purchase of Advanced Solutions, a Colorado-based maker of mission simulation systems, and navigation and control solutions, for US$40m - plus a potential US$5m on top if it reaches performance targets for this calendar year. 

And last year, Rocket Lab bought Canadian satellite component maker Sinclair Interplanetary for an undisclosed sum to bolster its "Photon" platform for placing satellites into the right orbit around the Earth, or ferrying them between planets. 

Rocket Lab shares fell 0.6 per cent today to US$14.29 but perked up to US$15.00 in post-market trading for a US$6.41 billion market cap. 

The stock is up 50 per cent since its August listing. 

Despite pandemic disruption pushing Rocket Lab to a wider loss this year, investors have cheered developments including a fatter pipeline of contracts, an expansion of space systems manufacturing capacity, its US$45m acquisition of Colorado mission simulation and guidance system maker Advanced Solutions, and Rocket Lab securing US$24.35 million ($34m) in US military funding towards development of the crew-capable neutron, which will be able to lift an 8-tonne payload into space (or around 20 times the payload capacity of the Electron). 

Founder and CEO Peter Beck told the Herald in August that while some of the cash from the listing would go towards developing Rocket Lab's new, much larger Neutron rocket, some of the funds were also earmarked for acquisitions to expand the company's space systems business - or making satellites and spacecraft. 

Rocket Lab's aim is for space systems to generate 40 per cent of its revenue by 2027 - a year in which it has forecast operating earnings of US$505m on US$1.57b turnover. 

Beck told the Herald that the space systems sector was ripe for consolidation, with dozens of players who were capable, but also small, slow and financially inefficient. 

Being rolled into Rocket Lab gave them scale, and reduced lead times for the Kiwi-American company, which is aiming for a full-service space transportation offering. 

Meanwhile, Rocket Lab's latest launch - which will include helicopters shadowing the falling first-stage in preparation for a mid-air retrieval - was had to be abandoned last Thursday. The company says with weather around Launch Complex 1 at Mahia improving, it should be able to have another shot tomorrow.