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Rocket Lab to Acquire Space Solar Power Provider SolAero

By Frank Wolfe | December 14, 2021

SolAero headquarters building. Photo: SolAero

As California-based Rocket Lab looks to provide its Neutron rocket for future U.S. Space Force launches, the company on Dec. 13 took a step toward alternative power sources when the company said it plans to buy for $80 million New Mexico-based SolAero, a marquee supplier of space solar power products.

Rocket Lab said it expects to seal the deal early next year–an acquisition that may give the firm some leverage, as Pentagon officials look to more environmentally-friendly systems.

“The acquisition aligns with Rocket Lab’s growth strategy of vertical integration to deliver a comprehensive space solution that spans spacecraft manufacture, satellite subsystems, flight software, ground operations, and launch,” Rocket Lab said in a statement on Dec. 13. “As one of only two companies producing high-efficiency, space-grade solar cells in the United States, SolAero’s space solar cells are among the highest performing in the world and support civil space exploration, science, defense and intelligence, and commercial markets. In combining with Rocket Lab, SolAero will tap into the company’s resources and manufacturing capability to boost high-volume production, making high-performing space power technologies available at scale.”

Rocket Lab ticked off a list of what the company said were SolAero’s accomplishments, including supplying power to NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and Mars Insight Lander, the largest solar array ever deployed on the surface of Mars, several Cygnus Cargo Resupply Missions to the International Space Station, and the development and building of the solar power on Ingenuity, the helicopter that flew on Mars in April.

“SolAero technology has also made commercial constellations possible, providing power to OneWeb’s broadband constellation,” per Rocket Lab. Most recently, “SolAero has been selected to supply solar power modules for the power and propulsion element of NASA’s Gateway as part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans, which will enable future missions to Mars.”

This acquisition caps off a busy year for Rocket Lab. In 2021, the company passed the 100-satellite deployment milestone, went public via a SPAC, unveiled plans for the larger Neutron rocket, and acquired space software company Advanced Solutions.

This article was first published by our sister publication Defense Daily.