Rocket Lab Unveils Spacecraft Bus Lineup

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Rocket Lab USA, Inc introduces a family of spacecraft buses, consolidating custom designs for various missions. The spacecraft line offers speed, affordability, performance, and configurability. The family includes Photon, Lightning, Pioneer, and Explorer, designed for different mission profiles. Rocket Lab emphasizes vertical integration, flight-proven components, and rapid production capabilities. The spacecraft are in production for various customers, with a significant backlog.
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The introduction of Rocket Lab's family of spacecraft buses represents a significant development in the aerospace sector, particularly for the small satellite market. The move to consolidate custom designs into a family of configurable spacecraft could enhance Rocket Lab's competitive positioning by offering a more streamlined and cost-effective solution for a variety of mission profiles. The commonality of components and the vertical integration of their supply chain suggest potential for reduced production times and costs, which could translate into competitive pricing and shorter lead times for customers.

This could attract a broader customer base, including commercial, defense and civil sectors and potentially increase market share. The backlog of more than 40 satellites indicates strong demand and could be a positive indicator for future revenue streams. The establishment of an advanced manufacturing complex could further bolster production capabilities and efficiency, supporting scalability and responsiveness to market demands.

From a financial perspective, Rocket Lab's announcement may be seen as a strategic investment in expanding its product line and manufacturing capabilities. The in-house design and manufacturing of key spacecraft components could lead to improved gross margins due to cost savings from economies of scale and reduced reliance on external suppliers. The vertical integration strategy could also serve as a hedge against supply chain disruptions.

Investors should monitor the capital expenditures associated with the new manufacturing complex and weigh them against the expected increase in production capacity and potential revenue generation. The mention of 'off-the-shelf' products suggests a move towards standardization, which could lead to a more predictable and stable revenue model compared to one-off custom projects. The long-term implications include the possibility of recurring revenue from ongoing contracts and the strengthening of Rocket Lab's position in the rapidly growing space economy.

The technical details provided about Rocket Lab's spacecraft family highlight significant advancements in spacecraft design and manufacturing. The Photon's capability for precision orbit insertion and the lowest launch environments in the industry could be a game-changer for responsive space missions. The Lightning's 12+ year orbital lifespan and high radiation tolerance are critical for telecommunications and remote sensing applications, indicating a focus on reliability and long-term performance.

Furthermore, the Explorer's ability to support missions to various planetary destinations underscores Rocket Lab's ambition in deep space exploration. The technical maturity and flight heritage gained from missions such as CAPSTONE and ESCAPADE could serve as a testament to the company's engineering prowess. The emphasis on redundancy in critical subsystems and high operational duty cycle capabilities reflects an understanding of the robustness required for space missions, which could be a key differentiator in the market.

Updated family of advanced spacecraft delivers speed, affordability, performance, and configurability for a range of mission profiles and customers

LONG BEACH, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Rocket Lab USA, Inc (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, today introduced its family of spacecraft buses, consolidating the custom designs Rocket Lab has developed for multiple customers and missions. The family of spacecraft is the result of more than four years of development into Rocket Lab’s space systems capabilities.

“We’ve had the privilege of developing, launching, and operating spacecraft for a broad range of customers and they’ve all told us the same thing: They need reliable and highly capable spacecraft built quickly and affordably. Photon was the start, but the Rocket Lab spacecraft family has grown,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. “We’ve developed a configurable spacecraft line that delivers high performance at scale, supported by an experienced team, technical maturity, a vertically-integrated supply chain, and advanced manufacturing, test and operations facilities. We’ve designed these spacecraft through close collaboration with our customers to support real missions at constellation scale. The hard development work is done, and now these spacecraft are available as off-the-shelf products, or they can be further customized to meet specific mission requirements.”

The spacecraft share many common components and subsystems, designed and manufactured in-house by Rocket Lab, including carbon composite structures, star trackers, reaction wheels, solar arrays, radios, separation systems, avionics, flight and ground software.

"Through vertical integration, we’re able to deliver spacecraft quickly, affordably and reliably using flight-proven components,” says Rocket Lab Vice President Space Systems, Brad Clevenger. “We’ve struck the right balance between commonality to deliver cost-effective, rapid production and ensuring our spacecraft are configurable to suit unique and specific mission profiles.”

Rocket Lab’s family of spacecraft includes:

Photon: The original Rocket Lab spacecraft, Photon is the Company’s integrated launch-plus-spacecraft solution. Photon is a modified Electron Kick Stage with power, propulsion, and communications to deliver a capable low Earth orbit (LEO) platform that serves civil, defense and commercial customers across a range of missions. With a mass of 200-300kg, Photon is launched on Electron for responsive space and other challenging missions like cryogenic fuel demonstration, taking advantage of precision orbit insertion, launch on demand, and the lowest launch environments in industry.

Lightning: Rocket Lab’s newest spacecraft bus is designed for a 12+ year orbital lifespan in LEO, delivers high power and high radiation tolerance, incorporating redundancy in critical subsystems. This ~3 kW bus is ideal for high operational duty cycle telecommunications and remote sensing applications. Lightning can be launched on Neutron and other medium and heavy launch vehicles. Lightning is based on the same design as the custom spacecraft Rocket Lab developed for MDA and Globalstar and is the basis for the Company’s bus for the Space Development Agency.

Pioneer: A highly configurable medium delta-V platform designed to support payloads up to 120 kg and unique mission profiles, including re-entry missions for Varda Space Industries, and dynamic space operations. Depending on the mission profile, Pioneer can be launched on Electron, Neutron or other launch vehicles.

Explorer: A high delta-V spacecraft with large propellant tanks, deep space capable avionics, and ranging transponders. Explorer enables small spacecraft missions to planetary destinations like Mars and Venus, the Moon, highly eccentric Earth orbits, geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO), Earth-moon Lagrange points, Earth-sun Lagrange points, and near Earth objects (NEOs). Depending on the mission profile, Explorer can be launched on Electron, Neutron or other launch vehicles. Explorer gained flight heritage during the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon for NASA and forms the basis of the twin spacecraft Rocket Lab is developing for the ESCAPADE mission to Mars for NASA and the University of California, Berkeley.

Each member of Rocket Lab’s spacecraft family is currently in production in a range of quantities for different customers, with more than 40 satellites currently in backlog. To support the rapid production of our family of spacecraft, Rocket Lab has established an advanced spacecraft development and manufacturing complex at the Company’s Long Beach headquarters. The facility includes over 10,000 sq. ft. of cleanroom and 40,000 sq. ft. of additional production & test facilities designed to support constellation class manufacturing and satellite assembly, integration and test for commercial, civil and national security customers.

Learn more about Rocket Lab’s family of spacecraft here.

+ About Rocket Lab

Founded in 2006, Rocket Lab is an end-to-end space company with an established track record of mission success. We deliver reliable launch services, satellite manufacture, spacecraft components, and on-orbit management solutions that make it faster, easier and more affordable to access space. Headquartered in Long Beach, California, Rocket Lab designs and manufactures the Electron small orbital launch vehicle and the Photon satellite platform and is developing the Neutron 13-ton payload class launch vehicle. Since its first orbital launch in January 2018, Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle has become the second most frequently launched U.S. rocket annually and has delivered 177 satellites to orbit for private and public sector organizations, enabling operations in national security, scientific research, space debris mitigation, Earth observation, climate monitoring, and communications. Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft platform has been selected to support NASA missions to the Moon and Mars, as well as the first private commercial mission to Venus. Rocket Lab has three launch pads at two launch sites, including two launch pads at a private orbital launch site located in New Zealand and a third launch pad in Virginia, USA. To learn more, visit


This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. We intend such forward-looking statements to be covered by the safe harbor provisions for forward looking statements contained in Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”) and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). All statements contained in this press release other than statements of historical fact, including, without limitation, statements regarding our launch and space systems operations, launch schedule and window, safe and repeatable access to space, Neutron development, operational expansion and business strategy are forward-looking statements. The words “believe,” “may,” “will,” “estimate,” “potential,” “continue,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “expect,” “strategy,” “future,” “could,” “would,” “project,” “plan,” “target,” and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements, though not all forward-looking statements use these words or expressions. These statements are neither promises nor guarantees, but involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other important factors that may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements, including but not limited to the factors, risks and uncertainties included in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2023, as such factors may be updated from time to time in our other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), accessible on the SEC’s website at and the Investor Relations section of our website at, which could cause our actual results to differ materially from those indicated by the forward-looking statements made in this press release. Any such forward-looking statements represent management’s estimates as of the date of this press release. While we may elect to update such forward-looking statements at some point in the future, we disclaim any obligation to do so, even if subsequent events cause our views to change.

+ Rocket Lab Media Contact

Morgan Bailey

Source: Rocket Lab USA, Inc


Rocket Lab introduced a family of spacecraft buses.

Photon spacecraft has a mass of 200-300kg.

Lightning spacecraft is designed for a 12+ year orbital lifespan in LEO.

The Lightning spacecraft is based on the same design as the custom spacecraft Rocket Lab developed for MDA and Globalstar.

The Pioneer spacecraft is a highly configurable medium delta-V platform designed to support payloads up to 120 kg and unique mission profiles.

Explorer is a high delta-V spacecraft enabling small spacecraft missions to planetary destinations like Mars and Venus, the Moon, highly eccentric Earth orbits, GEO, Earth-moon Lagrange points, Earth-sun Lagrange points, and NEOs.

More than 40 satellites are currently in backlog for Rocket Lab's spacecraft family.

Rocket Lab's advanced spacecraft development and manufacturing complex is located at the Company's Long Beach headquarters.
Rocket Lab USA Inc


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we are rocket lab and we're opening access to space to improve life on earth. rocket lab is an orbital launch provider, delivering rapid and repeatable access to orbit for small satellites. our team designs, builds and launches the electron rocket – the world’s first fully carbon composite orbital launch vehicle, powered by 3d printed, electric pump fed engines on january 21 2018, rocket lab reached orbit with the launch of the electron vehicle and successfully deployed the company’s first commercial payloads. it marked a significant milestone in eliminating commercial barriers and ushering in a new era of unprecedented access to space. rocket lab is headquartered in huntington beach, california, with operations and a launch pad in new zealand. electron is launched from rocket lab launch complex 1, the world’s only private orbital launch range. located in mahia, new zealand, and licensed to launch every 72 hours, rocket lab can accommodate an unprecedented launch cadence and reach orbi