December 8, 2022

Rocket Lab is a US-based company, but so far the bulk of its activities have been carried out in New Zealand. While the company has been public about its plans to expand into both hemispheres for a while, executives released a slew of updates on Wednesday detailing their goal to make the United States home to a greater share of launches, testing and manufacturing.

The company shared the news with investors and the general public during its Rocket Lab Investor Day. While the live stream of the event has reached an artistic game, Rocket Lab shared all the updates in a long thread of tweets concurrent with the event (Read it here). Here are some of the biggest takeaways.

Expand its presence in North America

Before the Investor Day event begins, Rocket Lab kicked off Wednesday morning with news: It will test Archimedes’ neutron rocket engines at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The company obtained a 10-year lease for the Archimedes Experimental Complex at the center, with the option to extend the lease for another 10 years. The company also secured an undisclosed amount of capital investment from the Mississippi Development Authority to continue building the infrastructure for its reusable neutron engines.

This probably won’t be a huge surprise. Several companies have conducted engine tests at Stennis in the past, including SpaceX for the Raptor engine and Relativity Space for the Aeon engine. NASA has a lot of infrastructure and test booths already in place to test the engine, so it makes sense (not to mention economic wise) that a private company secure space in the center. Rocket Lab has yet to build the test complex, and this is where the capital investment will come in handy.

Rocket Lab will also bring a significant amount of investment and activity to Wallops Island, Virginia. The company announced last February that it had chosen Wallops as the site for Neutron’s first launch site, manufacturing facilities and operations. Again, a reasonable decision: Wallops is also home to Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 2, the launch site for Electron missiles.

So far, the company has been vague at best about when the electron will take off from the Virginia site. But now more: The company said it plans to conduct this first launch of the LC-2 in December 2022, followed by a second mission just a few weeks later at the start of the new year.

Neutron goes…between planets?

Rocket Lab has also provided a long-awaited update on Neutron. The latest neutron release looks a little different than what we’ve seen before, although the overall scheme is the same as the previous render released at the end of last year. It certainly didn’t escape the notice that the company included “Interplanetary” in its list of mission profiles for the craft as well.

There was a big design change in the demo: We’ve known for a while that the Neutron will have a fairing that doesn’t separate from the rocket during launch, but opens instead (Rocket Lab calls this demo “Hungry Hippo” for that reason). But instead of opening in four parts, the lid will open in only two parts.

The company has made commendable progress, but there is still a lot to be done through the end of 2023, they explained during the presentation. But from the sounds it makes, the company is proceeding as planned to launch its first neutron sometime in 2024.

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