The American-New Zealand company Rocket Lab, which operates one of the few operational space minilaunchers in the world, announced on Tuesday the takeover of part of the assets of its bankrupt competitor Virgin Orbit.
Won at auction for 16.1 million dollars (14.5 million francs), Rocket Lab’s offer, currently being finalized, aims to buy from the subsidiary of the empire of British billionaire Richard Branson its headquarters in Long Beach, Calif., “as well as certain production assets, machinery and equipment therein,” Rocket Lab said in a statement released Tuesday.
Its offer does not include the Virgin Orbit launchers or the equipment necessary for their launch, in particular the Boeing 747 to which the small rockets were attached to be dropped in flight.
This operation should enable Rocket Lab to produce its future Neutron launcher more quickly, a rocket comparable to the Russian Soyuz and much more powerful than Electron, its current mini-launcher.
Electron, which has carried out 35 launches since 2018 from sites in New Zealand and the United States, can place 300 kilograms in low orbit, compared to 13 tons for Neutron which is due to fly in 2024.
“This transaction represents an opportunity to save on capital expenditures in order to increase our production capacity and quickly bring Neutron to the launch pad,” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said in the statement. .
The 21-meter Virgin Orbit rocket, launched in early January from the Boeing 747 off Cornwall (United Kingdom), had not reached its orbit, causing the loss of the nine satellites it was carrying and precipitating the fall of the ‘business.
Created by Richard Branson in 2017, this subsidiary had previously succeeded in putting 33 satellites into orbit.
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