Rocket Lab targets Neutron launch price to challenge SpaceX
Rocket Lab is building a larger reusable booster called Neutron, and it’s targeting a price tag of around $50 million per launch to challenge Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
“We are positioning Neutron to compete directly with the Falcon 9,” Rocket Lab CFO Adam Spice said earlier this week at a Bank of America event in London on Tuesday.
The company announced Neutron when it went public in 2021, while Spice said the rocket remains on track for a 2024 debut. building a launch pad for a rocket. The company plans to conduct the first “hot fire test” of the Archimedes engine that will power Neutron “by the end of the year,” Spice said.
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SpaceX is touting the Falcon 9 launch with a price tag of $67 million, and Spice says Rocket Lab is aiming to match that price per kilogram for satellite customers. That means Neutron is targeting “a launch service cost between $50 million and $55 million,” Spice said.
Spice also noted that Rocket Lab expects to fire reusable Neutron boosters “10 to 20 times” each, which is in line with the current Falcon 9 booster reuse specs.
“Ultimately, we expect margins to be around 50% for Neutron launches,” Spice added. He estimated the cost of goods for each neutron at $20–25 million, with “nearly half that amount” coming from the rocket’s upper, disposable second stage.
Also, with SpaceX working hard to develop its massive Starship rocket, Spice mentioned the company’s ability to ditch the Falcon 9 flights.
“We don’t have hard data on this, but certainly if it did, it would be incredibly optimistic for Neutron,” Spies said.
Meanwhile, Spice said that Rocket Lab hopes to maintain its position as the “dominant player” in the market sub-sector for launching small satellites with its Electron spacecraft. The company expects to launch three Electron missions in the second quarter, two of which have already been completed, and is “on track” to launch 15 missions this year, Spice said.
More than rockets
Spice also emphasized to the Bank of America audience that Rocket Lab is “much more than” just a rocket company. Indeed, the company’s acquisitions and expansion of satellite components and spacecraft were a major part of its quarterly earnings.
“All of this is leading up to the biggest opportunity in space, which is really about applications,” Spies said.
How CEO Peter Beck previously noted that Rocket Lab aims to create an “end-to-end platform for customers” who need space services. Spice said the company wants to operate the satellites and “deliver data to our customers and generate a regular stream of revenue from it,” which would essentially save other companies the need to build and operate their own satellites.
“Many companies that we [launching to orbit on Electron] are very unnatural owners of space assets right now,” Spice said, adding that “the best owner of a space asset is someone who can launch.”