Los Angeles-based Rocket Lab has become the first Unicorn space startup in the world. The company announced on Tuesday that it has closed a $75 million Series D round at a valuation of over $1 billion. The round was led by Data Collective, with Bessemer Venture Partners, Khosla, Promus Ventures, and K1W1 also contributing to the round.
According to figures made available by Rocket Lab, this latest round of funding has brought the total funds raised by the startup to a whopping $148 million, with its valuation crossing more than $1 billion. Thus, making it a Unicorn Startup.
The startup has decided to use the funds raised to scale up and increase its production rate enormously. It is looking to expand its manufacturing facilities in California and New Zealand for Rocket Lab’s small launch vehicle, Electron.
Even though the cost of building smaller satellites has gone down over the past decades, rocket technology is still based around sending much larger satellites into the Earth’s orbit. This means, small satellite operators have no option but to hitch rides with big payloads, such as big communication satellites, which not only comes out to be costly for them but they also have to comply with the schedules of these big satellite companies.
Electron, which makes use of the startup’s 3D-printed Rutherford engines for its main propulsion system, has been designed with an objective of putting satellites weighing about 150 kilograms into orbits 500 kilometres above planet Earth. Once the company’s production is fully functional, it aims to launch a rocket every week.
Rocket Lab can manufacture Electron at a rate of one per week and is looking to sell the same for $5 million per flight.
The startup, which has signed on customers such as NASA, Planet, Spire, and Moon Express, has already shipped the first Electron to its site on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. It will now be conducting three test launches before taking its first commercial cargo into space in the second half of this year.
After this, the company hopes to send up its second and third rockets for test flights in short order. Those rockets are already in production. According to its current plan, Rocket Lab is hoping to launch its first commercial payloads before the end of this year.
While the market for launching satellites is currently booming at its all time high, but it is still a very small market in size. Experts predict that the market will grow exponentially in the coming few years, with billions of dollars already invested in private companies like OneWeb Satellites and SpaceX.