Rocket Lab confirmed on Monday recent speculation that its newly secured $515 million contract to build and operate more than a dozen satellites for the U.S. government was in fact with the Space Development Agency — an arm of Space Force — as part of a military defense constellation.
During a conference call, the Long Beach-based space launch provider and satellite manufacturer officially announced it would build and operate 18 satellites for the military agency as part of the Space Development Agency’s network of satellites in low-Earth orbit known as Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture.
“It’s exciting to now be delivering this capability for government and commercial customers alike,” Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said in a statement. “SDA’s acquisition approach favors speed, schedule certainty, and affordability to deliver next-generation space capabilities to the nation. We’ve proven Rocket Lab is capable of delivering this across our launch and spacecraft programs.”
A spokesperson for Rocket Lab declined to say how many jobs a contract like this will add to the company but said, “We currently have around 100 open roles across our US facilities with the biggest concentration of growth focused in Long Beach.”
Earlier this year, following the collapse of Virgin Orbit, Rocket Lab grew its footprint in Long Beach significantly, taking space vacated by the Richard Branson company. The expansion allowed Rocket Lab to move some operations out of its headquarters, freeing up space to expand its satellite development operations.
During the call, the company stressed that it reinvests profits to bring more capabilities in-house to keep costs down for government and commercial contracts, its presentation showed
Adam Spice, chief financial officer for Rocket Lab, said the company has no intention of stopping the current program, noting that there are other opportunities with the SDA as well as other government agencies to “add value” and bring “innovation and performance.”
“This is a huge validation and these opportunities are real for Rocket Lab.” Spice said.
With hundreds of satellites, the SDA network will be capable of targeting mobile missile launchers and ships as well as hypersonic and advanced missile threats in real time for U.S. forces on the ground.
The program is being rolled out in five different tranches, or parts. Rocket Lab is joining Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman in the Transport Layer Tranche 2-Beta, which includes some 90 spacecraft for tactical satellite communications using ultra-high and s-band frequency waves, which are expected to launch in 2027.
Tranche 0 launches began last year and are expected to be completed in the next couple of months. Tranche 1 satellites are slated to be delivered beginning September, with full delivery by 2025.
Tranches 3 and 4, meanwhile, are expected to begin launching in 2028 and 2030, respectively.
Rocket Lab’s 18 satellites will integrate subsystems and components built in-house at its Long Beach headquarters, including solar panels, structures, star trackers, reaction wheels, radio, flight software, avionics and launch dispensers, according to the company. Once delivered, Rocket Lab would operate the satellites through 2030, with an optional extension through 2033.
“This contract marks the beginning of Rocket Lab’s new era as a leading satellite prime,” Beck said. “We’ve methodically executed on our strategy of developing and acquiring experienced teams, advanced technology, manufacturing facilities, and a robust spacecraft supply chain to make this possible.”