ABL Space Systems has raised $170 million in funding

ABL Space Systems, a small launch vehicle manufacturer, revealed on March 25 that it had secured $170 million in funds to support its set up facilities and launch sites in preparation for its first launch. According to the firm, T. Rowe Price Associates advised funds and accounts in ABL’s Series B round. Existing investors were also involved, as were recent contributions from Fidelity Management & Research LLC as well as another unnamed “financial investment management company.” ABL is currently priced at $1.3 billion in the latest round.

The investment round, according to Dan Piemont, the president as well as co-founder of ABL, would finance further development for the venture, which had previously raised around $50 million. “We will begin to invest in the facilities we need to scale development and launch cadence, like rapidly developing a few launch locations in the United States and the United Kingdom,” he added.

The RS1 is a compact launch vehicle designed by ABL that can take up to 1,350 kilograms into low Earth orbit.

The business is planning for the vehicle’s first delivery in the second quarter. According to Piemont, the first vehicle should be available for launch in second quarter, but that timeline is subject to licensing approval. The first launch would take place from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, bringing two satellites for L2 Aerospace. Lockheed Martin preferred ABL in February to fly a “UK Pathfinder” flight from Shetland Space Centre in the year 2022.

ABL is one of the few firms working on or running tiny launch vehicles, a surplus that seems to outnumber even the most ambitious market predictions vastly. However, Piemont believes the RS1 has a place in that sector, particularly in the short term. “People claim it’s a competitive market,” he clarified, “but we see a lot of unmet demand in the 2022-2025 period and need to grow rapidly to reach it.”

T. Rowe Price, the lead investor, sees ABL as a promising venture in the burgeoning space industry. In a quote, Jason Adams, portfolio manager of T. Rowe Price’s Global Industrials Fund, stated, “We assume ABL has a management team, technology collection, and product plan that should allow long-term competitive advantages.”

Adams is “extremely experienced in space, aerospace, and security, and industrial growth,” according to Piemont, and T. Rowe is “one of the world’s strongest investors.” “We leaped at the chance to get them on board because they are clearly based on public markets and are very selective in private investments.”

ABL’s private investment round coincides with a recent generation of firms that are raising capital by mergers of special-purpose acquisition corporations (SPACs), which are an alternative to conventional initial public offerings. Astra and Rocket Lab, two tiny launch vehicle firms, have reported SPAC transactions in the last two months, helping them to earn hundreds of millions of dollars to become publicly listed companies after the mergers are concluded.

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