Lockheed Martin key investor in Rocket Lab

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Capitalism in space: In this article about how Lockheed Martin and a smallsat rocket company have won launch development contracts from the British government in connection with the UK’s first spaceport in Scotland was this tidbit of information I have never known:

Lockheed Martin and Orbex, a UK-based company development a small satellite booster, have announced their intention to launch from Sutherland. Lockheed Martin will receive £23.5 million ($31.1 million) and Orbex will get £5.5 million ($7.3 million) from the U.K. Space Agency to advance work on their launcher programs.

The British government, Lockheed Martin and Orbex made their announcements at the Farnborough International Airshow.

Lockheed Martin is reportedly interested in launching a variant of Rocket Lab’s Electron booster from the Sutherland site. The U.S. aerospace contractor is a strategic investor in Rocket Lab, which already operates an orbital spaceport in New Zealand, and is planning to develop a U.S. launch pad for the Electron vehicle, which has made two test flights to date. [emphasis mine]

It sounds as if Lockheed Martin, after funding Rocket Lab and letting it do all the initial risky development, is now moving in to use its vast resources to develop its own competitive smallsat rocket, possibly using some of the knowledge gained by Rocket Lab.

Hat tip reader Steve Golson.


One comment

  • Edward

    I don’t know why, but I seemed to have already known that Lockheed Martin was an investor in Rocket Lab. But then, we should have known this for three years:
    In addition, Lockheed Martin will make a strategic investment in Rocket Lab to support the exploration of future aerospace technologies.

    I have a slightly different takeaway from the article.

    From the article: “Rocket Lab’s Electron booster, which Lockheed Martin is eyeing to capture a piece of the small satellite launch market, has a comparable lift capacity. It can put a payload of up to 330 pounds into a 310-mile-high (500-kilometer) sun-synchronous orbit.

    This makes it look more like Lockheed Martin may be hiring or supporting Rocket Lab, with a slightly modified Electron, for use at the Sutherland site.

    Lockheed Martin had attempted to enter the small satellite launch market using its Athena rocket in the 1990s, but that market did not materialize, and the Athena has since been discontinued. It looks like the small satellite market is materializing faster than the launchers for it, and the launchers seem to be far more affordable than in the past (e.g. Athena).

    Also from the article: “Lockheed Martin said in a statement it will provide ‘strategic support and guidance’ to the Scottish government in developing the Sutherland launch site. The U.K. Space Agency awarded two separate funding grants to Lockheed Martin, one to help pay for the company’s efforts to aid the construction of the spaceport in Scotland, and another for the development of a Small Launch Orbital Maneuvering Vehicle — or SL-OMV — in Reading, England. The orbital maneuvering vehicle, to be built for Lockheed Martin by Moog, will be a restartable upper stage capable of delivering up to six satellites to different orbits.

    It also looks like Lockheed Martin will help build the launch site and will fund the English to develop a spacecraft, although it looks like SL-OMV is launched on larger rockets.

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