ABL Space Systems, a tiny launch vehicle developer, has signed a contract with Lockheed Martin for up to 58 launches during the next decade. This agreement may be worth multiple hundred million dollars. The deal, which was revealed on April 5, includes up to 26 RS1 rocket launches through 2025 and a further 32 deployments from 2026 to 2029. Such launches could occur from several sites, including the Vandenberg Air Force Base, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, and the Shetland Space Centre in the United Kingdom, which is currently under construction.
The firms did not reveal the contract’s overall amount. The RS1 is listed at the cost of $12 million on ABL’s website, putting the overall contract value at the cost of $696 million if Lockheed purchases all 58 launches at that price, while bulk sales normally come with a discount. Lockheed Martin picked ABL’s RS1 in February for the “UK Pathfinder” release from the Shetland Space Centre in the year 2022, after making a “strategic investment” in the business in 2019. The UK Pathfinder launch is different from the current launch deal, according to Dan Piemont, who serves as the president and co-founder of ABL.
In a message about the deal, Rick Ambrose, who serves as the executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space, stated, “This long-term arrangement with ABL reinforces our strategic relationship for the future.” Lockheed has remained coy on how it wants to utilize the releases. According to the announcement, the launches would enable the business to “speed up payload technologies” for clients. In a quote, Ambrose stated, “Getting this guaranteed access to space would improve our ability to show the spacecraft and related payload capabilities we are designed to fulfill the potential mission requirements for our customers.”
As with Pony Express, which is a cubesat deployed in late 2019 to evaluate mesh communications, Lockheed Martin spokesperson Mark Lewis said the releases were part of a larger group initiative to improve and show technology more rapidly. “Future launches with ABL would enable us to be more sensitive and iterate quicker with new technology, from remote sensing as well as communications to AI science, just as our Pony Express program emphasizes accelerated payload production and launch with our funds,” he added.
According to the statement, the deal provides ABL a backlog of possibly several hundred releases, providing the company with “a long-term relationship and secure launch inventory for its future development.” The business revealed on March 25 that it had raised $170 million in a Series B round to expand RS1 rocket development and provide launch facilities in the United States as well as the United Kingdom.
This post was originally published on Downey Magazine