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More space companies launch IPOs with SPAC deals to challenge SpaceX

SPAC merger deals have been announced by rocket launch company Astra, space 'tug' specialist Momentus, and satellite companies Spire Global and BlackSky

Rocket Lab -

Rocket Lab USA Inc has confirmed its initial public offer (IPO) in a ‘blank cheque’ deal that will value it at US$4.1bn and raise cash to challenge Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 spacecraft.

With 18 missions under its Orion’s Belt over the past four years, the small rocket launch company announced overnight that it plans to list in New York via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called Vector Acquisition Corp (NASDAQ:VACQ).

READ: Virgin Galactic delays next space flight to May amid ongoing engine troubles

Rocket Lab, which is based in California but uses a launch site in New Zealand, also revealed its new Neutron rocket design, which it said will be capable of launching astronauts into space and be a “direct alternative to” SpaceX’s bigger Falcon 9 rocket.

“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,” said chief executive officer Peter Beck.

On completion of the SPAC deal, which is expected to complete between April and June, the company will have US$750mln of new cash and its shares will trade under the ticker symbol of ‘RKLB’.

Rocket Lab has so far used its Electron rocket model, which is not currently reusable, since its first launch in 2017.

The intention is to use the new cash to transform the Electron into a reusable rocket and to develop the fully reusable Neutron launch vehicle.

Designed to launch up to a total payload of eight tons into orbit, Neutron is “tailored for mega constellations, deep space missions and human spaceflight”. Management are targeting a first flight for the 130ft tall Neutron in 2024.

Plenty of other space SPAC deals on the way  

With Musk's SpaceX so far in the lead in terms of rocket progress, a closer rival to Rocket Lab is probably Astra, which announced plans to go public via a merger with SPAC Holicity Inc (NASDAQ:HOL) last month.

Astra, led by NASA’s former chief technology officer, Chris Kemp, is expected to be the second space-flight specialist to launch onto the public markets after space tourism company Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc (NYSE:SPCE).

The small rocket launch outfit, which said it has US$150mln of contracted launch revenue from the 50 customer launches booked up so far, will be valued at US$2.1bn in the Holicity deal and will pocket US$500mln of fresh cash.

It will also be joined soon by space transportation company Momentus Inc, which in December triggered the ignition for its own SPAC deal.

The California-based company, which specialises in shuttling satellites from rockets to their intended orbits, also known as a 'space tugboat' service, will reverse into cash shell Stable Road Acquisition Corp (NASDAQ:SRAC).

Stable Road said the deal values Momentus at US$1.2bn.

If that wasn’t quite enough, there are also more satellite companies coming too.

Spire Global, which uses its constellation of more than 100 satellites to provide tonnes of predictive maritime, weather and aviation data for global companies, said overnight that it is merging with ‘blank-check’ shell NavSight Holdings Inc (NYSE:NSH).

The SPAC deal values Spire at roughly US$1.6bn and will provide it with US$445mln in net cash.

BlackSky, which operates a network of observation satellites, last month struck a SPAC deal with Osprey Technology Acquisition Corp (NYSE:SFTW).

BlackSky is expecting to get around US$450mln in new funding.

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