Missile builder ABL is raising $ 170 million from T. Rowe, Fidelity to become the newest space unicorn
An RS1 rocket amplifier is subjected to an acceptance test.
The rocket maker ABL Space closed a financing round of $ 170 million, the company announced on Thursday. It was the youngest private space company to achieve the unicorn rating mark.
ABL raised funds from T. Rowe Price and Fidelity Management as well as a third unnamed investment firm and existing investors valued at $ 1.3 billion.
“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.
“If 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 investors including Venrock, New Science Ventures, Lynett Capital and Lockheed Martin Ventures. ABL had also announced contracts from the Air Force Research Laboratory and AFWERX worth nearly $ 45 million. The company announced Thursday that it now has ten “different customers” contracts from a mix of commercial and government customers.
“We believe the global space economy has significant long-term growth potential,” said Jason Adams, portfolio 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 is expected to bring up to 1,350 kilograms (or nearly 1½ tons) of payload into low-earth orbit – at a cost of $ 12 million per launch. This puts RS1 in the middle of the commercial launch market, between Rocket Lab’s smaller Electron for $ 7 million and SpaceX’s heavy Falcon 9 for $ 62 million.
ABL also competes against several other companies developing medium-lift missiles. Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit recently entered orbit, while ABL, along with Relativity Space and Firefly Aerospace, are aiming for the companies’ first launches later this year.
In addition to the economic approach of ABL’s missile development process, the company is also promoting the efficiency of its deployable GS0 ground system. It’s essentially the barebones of a launch system – the erector, gas station, electrics, control center, and more – all packed in a couple of standard-size shipping containers.
One of the shipping containers in which the deployable GS0 start system infrastructure is located.
O’Hanley told CNBC in January that ABL’s missile program was “fully funded” through its first mission, and said Thursday that the additional $ 170 million “will give us the opportunity to commit the launch cadence to meet all demands, we see demand 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 valuation also makes it the youngest space company to break the unicorn mark of over $ 1 billion in valuation. The company is now among the most valuable in the growing space industry, led by SpaceX valued at $ 74 billion, followed by a number of companies that announced SPAC deals over the past six months.
Dan Piemont, President and CFO of ABL, shared his opinion on the company’s new status.
“We see our rating less as an achievement and more as a serious responsibility for value creation,” Piedmont told 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 a lasting 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.