An RS1 rocket booster undergoes acceptance testing.
Rocket builder ABL Space has signed a long-term multi-launch agreement with Lockheed Martin, agreeing to provide the defense giant with up to 58 rockets by the end of the decade.
Lockheed Martin will purchase up to 26 RS1 rockets from ABL through 2025, with a choice of up to 32 additional launches through 2029, ABL announced Monday.
“Having this assured access to space will accelerate our ability to demonstrate the spacecraft and associated payload technologies that we are developing to meet the future mission needs of our customers,” said Lockheed Martin Space Executive Vice President Rick Ambrose, in a press release.
ABL’s RS1 rocket fits in the middle of the launch market, between Rocket Lab’s little Electron and SpaceX’s big Falcon 9 vehicle. The RS1 is nearly 90 feet tall and designed to launch up to 1,350 kg (nearly 1½ tons) of payload into low Earth orbit.
Lockheed Martin’s venture arm is one of ABL’s early investors, and the company has raised about $ 220 million in private equity so far, most of which has come from a round of T. Rowe Price and Fidelity Management on last month with a valuation of $ 1.3 billion.
ABL declined to comment on the financial terms of the contract. Based on the $ 12 million ABL price for an RS1 rocket, the deal with Lockheed Martin is estimated to be worth nearly $ 700 million over eight years, assuming the maximum number of launches.
A fully integrated RS1 second stage on test firing at Edwards Air Force Base in 2020.
In particular, since ABL’s rockets use a mobile ground system called GS0 that can be packaged in a few shipping containers, Lockheed Martin can use a variety of launch facilities around the world, including Space Force facilities from USA At Vandenberg in California and Cape Canaveral in Florida.
While the defense giant did not specify which missions it plans to launch with ABL’s rockets, Lockheed Martin previously announced in February that it had selected ABL to launch a mission from Scotland in 2022. In addition, Lockheed Martin signed a strategic partnership last month. with the start of satellites. -up Omnispace, with the latter company planning to launch a constellation of satellites to build a 5G communications network in space.
The big contract represents a blow for ABL in the mid-lift segment of the launch market, where the company competes with Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, which entered orbit a few months ago.
Other competitors in that field include Relativity Space and Firefly Aerospace, which are aiming to launch for the first time later this year. Meanwhile, Rocket Lab is developing a medium-pay rocket called the Neutron that it hopes to launch in 2024.
ABL continues to work towards its inaugural Vandenberg RS1 launch.
While ABL previously expected to be ready for launch in March, President Dan Piemont said the company now aims “to be ready for flight in June.” The rocket maker recently completed acceptance testing on the first RS1 fuel tank, but Piemont said ABL expects the required regulatory approvals for the launch site to delay its first launch attempt until the third quarter of this year.