FAA approves Rocket Lab to resume launches after company identified cause of July 4 failure

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Rocket Lab is the industry leader in building and launching small rockets, targeting the growing market of satellites and spacecraft that are anywhere between the size of a toaster to a refrigerator. Its Electron rocket is priced at about $7 million per launch and is 55 feet tall, or about a fifth the size of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. 

Started in 2006, the company has about 600 employees and is backed by a host a VC firms and, in recent years, has grown its valuation to more than $1.2 billion. It’s based in Long Beach, California but was founded by Beck in New Zealand, where it has a privately-built launchpad.

Beck said that “there was a financial loss” from the July 4 failure “because we’re not launching.” But he downplayed the significance of that loss, saying that it “wasn’t really a big deal” and noting that the company still has cash set aside from its $140 million round of funding in November 2019.

Rocket Lab has launched its Electron rocket to space 12 times. It first reached orbit in January 2018 and is closing in on beginning launches from a second pad in Virginia. The first launch from that U.S. location, called LC-2, will be “a few weeks” after the August launch, Beck said.

“We haven’t launched this month and we’re trying to be on a one month cadence so we’re at least four weeks behind,” Beck added.

To date, the company has successfully deployed 53 payloads.

Additionally, the company last year expanded into the spacecraft building business itself with its Photon satellite platform. It’s grown its business to include building satellite hardware and earlier this year passed key milestones in developing a system to reuse its rockets — by snagging them out of the sky using parachutes and a helicopter.

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