3D printing powered Rocket Lab closes $140 million in funding

U.S. private aerospace manufacturer Rocket Lab, known for leveraging additive manufacturing for engine production, has just announced the closing of a Series E financing round with a value of $140 million.

The round was closed in September 2018, following the successful launch of its Electron rocket, and takes the company’s total valuation above $1 billion.

Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck comments, “It has been a big year for Rocket Lab with two successful missions to orbit and another about to roll out to the pad, but it’s even more significant for the global small satellite industry that now has a fully commercial, dedicated ride to space,”

“This funding also enables the continued aggressive scale-up of Electron production to support our targeted weekly flight rate. It will also see us build additional launch pads and begin work on three major new R&D programs.”

Rocket Lab's Electron rocket at Launch Complex 1. Photo via Rocket Lab.
Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket at Launch Complex 1. Photo via Rocket Lab.

The 3D printed Rutherford engine

Founded June 2006, Rocket Lab’s mission is to provide commercial customers access to “rapid and repeatable” small satellite orbit launches. So far, according to the company website counter, it has successfully launched 11 of these satellites into orbit.

The Electron is the vehicle through which Rocket lab sends its payload into space. 17 meters long, and capable of carrying a maximum payload of 225 kg, the Electron is powered by nine Rutherford engines.

Fueled by oxygen and kerosene, all primary components of the Rutherford engine are 3D printed, taking 24 hours per build. The peak thrust for these engines in 192 kN, or 41,500 pounds of force (lbf).

Hot fire testing of Rocket's Lab Rutherford engine. Photo via Rocket Lab
Hot fire testing of Rocket’s Lab 3D printed Rutherford engine. Photo via Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab Series E funding

This latest Series E funding from Rocket lab was led by the Australian Government’s Future Fund, an existing investor in the company. It featured the participation of California venture capital firm Greenspring Associates, Khosla Ventures, the fund of Indian American billionaire engineer, businessman and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, Bessemer Venture Partners, DCVC (Data Collective), Promus Ventures and New Zealand startup investor K1W1.

Matt Ocko, Managing Partner of DCVC, commented, “We were privileged to lead Rocket Lab’s prior round, and continue to be committed strongly to this superb team in this round and beyond,”

“We saw proof of Rocket Lab’s transformative cost and frequency of launch just in the number of DCVC’s own next-gen ‘scale-out space’ companies enabled by Rocket Lab, let alone the hundreds more lined up for this disruptive orbital access capability.”

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Featured image shows Rocket Lab’s successful launch of the Electron. Photo via Rocket Lab