Rocket Lab reveals big supplier deal with mystery mega constellation customer
Rocket Lab has proven that it's much more than a launch company. One glance at the company’s most recent earnings presentation shows as much: its space systems business, which designs, manufactures and sells satellite components and spacecraft, brought in over 70% of company revenue compared to launch in 2022, at $150.3 million versus $60.7 million, respectively.
The space systems business -- whose products include star trackers, reaction wheels, solar power systems, separation systems and more -- also saw a massive growth in revenue, increasing by 239% year-over-year. To meet this growing demand, the company further announced last year that it was building out new manufacturing capabilities for reaction wheels, in particular.
The investment is paying off: It appears that Rocket Lab has landed a contract to provide reaction wheels to an unnamed mega constellation customer. The company said as much in a February press release announcing a new 12Nms reaction wheel product, saying that the wheel is “currently planned for flight with an undisclosed large mega constellation customer.”
More recently, Rocket Lab CFO Adam Spice added more color to this statement, revealing that the deal is worth “thousands” of reaction wheels per year.
"We entered into an agreement with a mega constellation where it's thousands of reaction wheels per year and much bigger reaction wheels," Spice said at Cowen's 44th Annual Aerospace/Defense and Industrials Conference in February. “What that allowed us to do is build a dedicated high-volume production facility in New Zealand and we brought the cost down by almost an order of magnitude on those wheels.”
At a Bank of America event this Tuesday, Spice reiterated the enormity of the deal: “We secured a contract with a mega constellation customer where we’ll ship two or three thousand reaction wheels per year to one customer.”
While the company has not publicly disclosed the name of this customer -- and declined to comment on the matter to TechCrunch, citing commercial sensitivity -- there’s only a handful of known possibilities. Amazon's Project Kuiper is one likely candidate, and OneWeb's growing network could plausibly be another. SpaceX has demonstrated that it wants to stay in-house as much as possible for its production stack, however, so Starlink isn't likely.
In its data sheet on the 12Nms reaction wheel, Rocket Lab lists the base price at $100,000. Of course, on contracts of this size, the price per unit is often discounted (which Spice acknowledged, saying at the Cowen conference that the ASP for the mega constellation reaction wheels “came down quite a bit”), but it suggests a big win for Rocket Lab’s revenues and a possible source for the doubling of the company’s backlog last year: from $241 million at the end of 2021 to $503 million.