An RS1 rocket amplifier is subjected to an acceptance test.
Missile builder ABL Space A $ 170 million financing round was closed on Thursday. This makes it the youngest private space company to achieve unicorn status.
ABL raised $ 1.3 billion in funds from T. Rowe Price, Fidelity Management, a third unnamed investment firm, and existing investors.
“We have always prided ourselves on capital efficiency,” ABL CEO Harry O’Hanley told CNBC, noting that the company has spent “well under” $ 50 million to date.
“When you compare us to other companies that are spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing launch vehicles, you should see how radically different our underlying approach has to be to achieve this,” added O’Hanley.
Previously, the company had raised $ 49 million in venture capital with Venrock, New Science Ventures, Lynett Capital, and Lockheed Martin Ventures, among others. ABL also announced contracts from the Air Force Research Laboratory and Afwerx worth nearly $ 45 million. The company announced Thursday that it has contracts from 10 commercial and government customers.
“We believe the global space economy has significant long-term growth potential,” said Jason Adams, manager of T. Rowe Price’s Global Industrials Fund, in a statement. “We believe that ABL has a management team, technology kit and product strategy designed to enable long-term competitive advantage.”
The first stage of the company’s RS1 missile after welding is complete.
ABL’s RS1 rocket is 88 feet tall and can carry up to 1,350 kg (nearly 1½ tons) of payload into near-earth orbit. The price for each launch is $ 12 million. This puts RS1 in the middle of the commercial go-to-market Rocket Lab’s smaller Electron for $ 7 million and SpaceX’s heavier Falcon 9 for $ 62 million.
ABL also competes against several other companies developing medium-lift missiles. Richard Bransons Virgin Orbit recently reached orbit while ABL is next door Relativity space and Firefly Aerospace on target for their first starts this year.
In addition to the economic approach to ABL’s missile development process, the company also praised the efficiency of its deployable GS0 ground system. These are essentially the barebones of a launch system – erectors, refueling, electrics, control center, and more – packaged in some standard-size shipping containers.
One of the shipping containers in which the deployable start system infrastructure for GS0 is located.
O’Hanley said in January that ABL’s missile program had already been fully funded through its first mission. On Thursday, he said the $ 170 million additional capital “will give us the ability to increase the starting rate to meet all of the demand we see in 2022 and beyond.”
“It will also allow us to carefully explore more opportunities in both space technology and other areas,” said O’Hanley.
ABL’s new rating also makes it the youngest space company to break the unicorn mark over $ 1 billion. The company is now one of the most valuable in the growing space industry led by SpaceX valued at $ 74 billion and followed by A variety of companies that have announced SPAC deals in the past six months.
“We see our evaluation less as an achievement and more as a serious responsibility for creating value,” said ABL President and CFO Dan Piemont to CNBC. “We have never optimized for valuation and have kept most of our successes private. We know we still have a lot to prove. We want to build an enduring company with the best employees, customers and investors in the world.”
“Hopefully this round shows that something special is going on under the hood here at ABL. If you would like to find out more, please contact us,” added Piedmont.