Rocket Lab is buying SolAero, a New Mexico maker of solar components for space, for US$80 million ($116m) - its fourth major deal of the past 18 months.
When the Kiwi-American firm listed on the Nasdaq in August, founder and CEO Peter Beck said some of the US$750m raised would go to developing his company's much larger Neutron rocket.
But some of the funds were also earmarked for acquisitions - especially those that would help Rocket Lab diversify by adding more space systems (satellite and spacecraft) capability to complement its core business of launching rockets.
And Beck's company has done that with enthusiasm.
As well as the deal announced today, it bought Planetary Systems Corporation, a Maryland-based spacecraft separation system, for US$42m on November 15.
That deal came with the ink barely dry on Rocket Lab's purchase of Advanced Solutions, a Colorado-based maker of mission simulation systems, and navigation and control solutions, for US$40m.
And in April 2020, Beck's company closed its acquisition of Toronto-based satellite component maker Sinclair Interplanetary for an undisclosed sum.
Rocket Lab is also boosting its space systems business by building a new plant to manufacture flywheels (a key satellite component) in Auckland.
The firm today said the series of acquisitions has doubled its staff over the past year to more than 1100 - including 425 who will join from SolAero.
Rocket Lab's aim is for space systems to generate 40 per cent of its revenue by 2027 - a year in which it has forecast operating earnings of US$505m on US$1.57b turnover.
Its third-quarter result, released on November 17, Rocket Lab reported a net loss of US$88.0m for the three moths to September 30, versus its year-ago net quarterly loss of US$13.0m as operating costs and R&D expenses surged while its Covid-hit revenue fell to $5.0m for the quarter from the year-ago US$11.0m.
But it also predicted a narrower loss (US$24m-$26m) for its fourth quarter as pandemic restrictions eased, and said its pipeline of forwarding bookings had swelled from US$60m in mid-2020 to US$237m.
Rocket Lab also revealed US$34m in US military funding to subsidise development of the Neutron, which will launch exclusively from Virginia.
Its shares, which listed at US$10.00, jumped to US$15.48 on that bullish guidance, but have since fallen away.
The stock closed down 7.86 per cent to US$11.84 today as the US indices in general, and tech stocks in particular, came under pressure ahead of the Fed meeting later this week amid spiking inflation.
Founded in 1998 and headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, SolAero's solar cells, solar panels, and composite structural products have supported more than 1000 successful space missions with 100 per cent reliability and mission success to date, Rocket Lab said in a market filing.
Over the past two decades, SolAero's products have played key roles in some of the industry's most ambitious space missions, including supplying power to Nasa's Parker Solar Probe and Mars Insight Lander, the largest solar array ever deployed on the surface of Mars, and several Cygnus Cargo Resupply Missions to the International Space Station, Rocket Lab said.
SolAero also led the development and manufacturing of the solar panel on Ingenuity, the helicopter that successfully flew on Mars in April this year, marking the first-ever powered, controlled flight on a planet other than Earth.
SolAero technology has also made commercial constellations possible, providing power to OneWeb's broadband constellation. Most recently, SolAero has been selected to supply Solar Power Modules for the Power and Propulsion Element of Nasa's Gateway as part of Nasa's Artemis lunar exploration plans, which will enable future missions to Mars.
The firm operates a 14,372sq m production facility in Albuquerque.
The deal is subject to approvals.