​Rocket Lab secures $140m to help reach weekly launch target

Funding announcement follows the company earlier this month successfully launching seven payloads to orbit.

Rocket Lab has announced securing $140 million in funding, pushing the total money raised by the New Zealand-based startup past $288 million.

Company CEO and founder Peter Beck said the funding will be used to build additional launch pads and boost its capability to launch weekly.

"This funding also enables the continued aggressive scale-up of Electron production to support our targeted weekly flight rate," Beck said. "It will also see us build additional launch pads and begin work on three major new R&D programs."

The Series E financing round was led by existing investor Future Fund, with participation from current investors including Greenspring Associates, Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, DCVC (Data Collective), Promus Ventures, and K1W1.

According to Rocket Lab, the latest funding round has also pushed the company past the $1 billion valuation it received after raising $75 million in a Series D round in March last year.

Rocket Lab earlier this month completed the It's Business Time mission, originally slated for launch in June, with seven payloads put into orbit from New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula.

The mission was the company's first commercial launch, and saw it deploy two Spire Global Lemur-2 satellites: The Irvine CubeSat STEM Program IRVINE01 educational CubeSat, a drag sail technology demonstrator to reduce space junk designed and built by High Performance Space Structure Systems; and a GeoOptics satellite built by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, as well as a pair of Proxima satellites for Fleet Space Technologies.

See also: NASA's unsung heroes: The Apollo coders who put men on the moon (TechRepublic)

The company said the funding announced on Thursday was secured ahead of the It's Business Time launch.

"It has been a big year for Rocket Lab with two successful missions to orbit and another about to roll out to the pad, but it's even more significant for the global small satellite industry that now has a fully commercial, dedicated ride to space," Beck said.

The funding announcement also follows the opening of Rocket Lab's new mass production facility for the Electron vehicle last month, as well as the announcement confirming the location of Rocket Lab's second orbital launch site.

The company said construction has begun on Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2, which is based within the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

With two launch complexes, Rocket Lab said it has capacity to support up to 130 orbital missions per year, previously saying it aims to complete a launch each fortnight in 2019, and weekly in 2020.

US-owned Rocket Lab runs the world's only privately-owned launch facility and focuses on small payloads, like satellites. Although substantially smaller than what Elon Musk's SpaceX is doing, Rocket Lab's 17-metre-long Electron rockets use 3D-printed engines and can carry payloads up to about 150 kilograms.

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