An RS1 rocket booster undergoes acceptance testing.
Rocket builder ABL Space closed a $ 170 million funding round, the company announced Thursday, making it the latest private space company to hit the unicorn valuation mark.
ABL raised funds from T. Rowe Price and Fidelity Management, as well as a third anonymous investment firm and existing investors, at a valuation of $ 1.3 billion.
“We have always prided ourselves on capital efficiency,” ABL CEO Harry O’Hanley told CNBC, noting that the company has spent “significantly less” than $ 50 million to date.
“If you compare us to other companies that spend hundreds of millions of dollars developing launch vehicles, you should see how fundamentally differentiated our underlying approach must be to achieve this,” O’Hanley added.
The company had previously raised $ 49 million in venture capital to date, with investors including Venrock, New Science Ventures, Lynett Capital, and Lockheed Martin Ventures. ABL had also announced nearly $ 45 million in contracts from the Air Force Research Laboratory and AFWERX, and the company said Thursday that it now has contracts from ten “separate clients,” from a combination of commercial and government clients.
“We believe that the global space economy has significant long-term growth potential,” said Jason Adams, portfolio manager for T. Rowe Price’s Global Industrial Fund, in a statement. “We believe ABL has a management team, a set of technologies and a product strategy that should allow long-term competitive advantages.”
The first stage of the company’s RS1 rocket after completion of welding.
ABL’s RS1 rocket is 88 feet tall and designed to launch up to 1,350 kilograms (or nearly 1½ tons) of payload into low Earth orbit, at a price tag of $ 12 million per launch. That puts RS1 in the middle of the commercial launch market, between Rocket Lab’s smaller Electron for $ 7 million and SpaceX’s heavyweight Falcon 9 for $ 62 million.
It also pits ABL against several other companies developing “medium lift” rockets. Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit recently arrived in orbit, while ABL is alongside Relativity Space and Firefly Aerospace in the target of the companies’ first launches later this year.
In addition to ABL’s economical approach to the rocket development process, the company also touts the efficiency of its GS0 deployable ground system. It’s essentially the basics of a launch facility – the rigger, fueling, electricity, control center, and more – all packed into a few standard-size shipping containers.
One of the shipping containers that contains the GS0 Deployable Launch System infrastructure.
O’Hanley told CNBC in January that ABL’s rocket program was already “fully funded” through its first mission, and on Thursday he said the additional $ 170 million in capital “will give us an opportunity to prepare to increase the launch cadence to meet all the requirements. demand that we are seeing in 2022 and beyond. “
“It will also allow us to begin to carefully explore more opportunities in both space technology and other domains,” O’Hanley said.
ABL’s new valuation also makes it the latest space company to pass the unicorn mark of a valuation in excess of $ 1 billion. The company is now among the most valuable in the growing space industry, led by SpaceX with a valuation of $ 74 billion and followed by a variety of companies that have announced deals with SPAC in the past six months.
Dan Piemont, president and CFO of ABL, shared his thoughts on the new state of the company.
“We don’t see our valuation as an achievement, but rather as a serious responsibility to deliver value,” Piemont told CNBC. “We have never optimized for valuation and have kept most of our achievements private. We know we still have a lot to prove. Our goal is to build a lasting company with the best people, customers and investors in the world.”
“We hope this round shows that there is something special going on here at ABL. If you would like more information on what it is, get in touch,” Piemont added.