As It Heads Toward an IPO, Rocket Lab Takes Aim at SpaceX

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

As It Heads Toward an IPO, Rocket Lab Takes Aim at SpaceX
Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab, a Long Beach manufacturer of small rockets used to launch satellites, plans to go public through a SPAC merger that will value the company at $4.1 billion.

The move could position Rocket Lab, which hopes to eventually send people into orbit, as a larger player in space travel.

The deal with Vector Acquisition, a special purpose acquisition company, is slated to close in the second quarter. Rocket Lab will be traded on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol RKLB.

The merger is expected to generate $750 million in cash — including $320 million from Vector about $470 million of PIPE led by San Francisco-based Vector, BlackRock, Neuberger Berman and other investors.

"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," founder and CEO Peter Beck said in a press release.

Since its first orbital launch in 2018, Rocket Lab has conducted 18 launches and delivered 97 rockets into orbit for customers including the National Reconnaissance Office and NASA. Beck told CNBC that the company founded in 2006 was "on a very methodical path to a traditional IPO" before pivoting to a SPAC merger.

On Monday, Rocket Lab also unveiled its new 8-ton payload rocket called Neutron that it hopes will eventually carry astronauts, putting the company in direct competition with Hawthorne-based SpaceX. While its first vehicle, Electron, holds up 300 kg (660 lbs), this second model is designed for larger commercial and government payloads. The two-stage launch vehicle will carry up to 8,000 kg to low Earth orbit and is expected to debut in 2024.

Beck told CNBC that the company aims to ensure the Neutron is "certifiable for human spaceflight."

The capability to carry astronauts could put Rocket in closer competition with SpaceX, whose Falcon 9 was certified for human spaceflight by NASA last year.

Rocket Lab currently operates two launch sites, in New Zealand and Virginia, and is looking to build a new factory to support "large-scale" Neutron manufacturing. That move will usher in hundreds of new jobs, according to the company.

Electron is the second most launched rocket in the U.S. annually and the fourth most launched globally, according to the company.

"Rocket Lab solved small launch with Electron," Beck said in a statement. "Now we're unlocking a new category with Neutron."

Vector's chief investment officer, Alex Slusky, will also join Rocket Lab's board along with Sven Strohband of Khosla Ventures, David Cowan of Bessemer Venture Partners, DCVC's Matt Ocko and independent director Mike Griffin.

"Rocket Lab is ideally positioned to continue to capture market share in the rapidly expanding space launch, systems and applications markets," Slusky said in a statement announcing the news.

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.


March Capital Raises $650 Million Fund to Invest in AI Startups

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

March Capital Raises $650 Million Fund to Invest in AI Startups
March Capital founder Jamie Montgomery. Illustration by Dilara Mundy.

Santa Monica-based venture outfit March Capital announced Feb. 3 that it raised its largest fund to date, a $650 million investment vehicle that will be used to back up to 15 startups focused on delivering new uses of artificial intelligence.

Read moreShow less

The Three Best Ways to Work With Your Startup Board

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

The Three Best Ways to Work With Your Startup Board

When launching and running a startup, your board of directors is one of your most valuable assets. If you already understand why you need a board and how to structure your board, it may be tempting to think you can cross that item off the list. But building a board is just the beginning. Now you’ve got to get down to business—together.

Read moreShow less

This Week in ‘Raises’: Saviynt Lands $205M, Pagos Secures $34M

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

This Week in ‘Raises’: Saviynt Lands $205M, Pagos Secures $34M
This Week in ‘Raises’:

While it was a slow week of funding in Los Angeles, security vendor Saviynt managed to score $205 million that will be used to meet the company’s growing demand for its converged identity platform and accelerate innovation.

Read moreShow less