Rocket Lab, a developer and manufacturer of launch and space systems that integrate numerous 3D printed parts, has been awarded a $24.35 million contract with the U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command (SSC) for the development of the Neutron launch vehicle’s upper stage. The agreement signifies Rocket Lab’s commitment to becoming a launch provider for the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program, which launches the United States’ most critical missions.
The Upper Stage Development for Neutron prototype project with the SSC’s Launch Enterprise, under the National Security Space Launch program using the Space Development Corps’ Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC), will fund the development of Neutron’s upper stage to support national security and defense launch capabilities for scientific and experimental satellites to the largest and most critical national security payloads. The award is part of a $75 million research and development program approved by U.S. Congress to advance the state-of-the-art in the upper stage technology of domestic launch systems.
The Upper Stage Development contract with the SSC’s Launch Enterprise recognizes the launch vehicle’s design to maximize mass-to-orbit capability, orbital insertion accuracy, and responsive dedicated launch for the U.S. government – key requirements for launch providers of the highest priority national defense and security missions awarded through the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program. Existing NSSL launch providers include SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, and the awarding of this contract recognizes Rocket Lab as a potential NSSL Phase 3 Launch provider from 2025.
Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck, commented: “We’re dedicated to building a next-generation rocket that will transform space access for constellations through to the most critical missions in support of national security, and it’s an honor to be partnering with the U.S. Space Force to develop Neutron. This award is a vote of confidence in Neutron and our ability to deliver a low-cost, responsive, dedicated launch for the U.S. Government. We’ve built a trusted launch system with Electron, and we’ll do it again with Neutron to continue providing unfettered access to space with our new heavier-lift vehicle”.