ABL Space never launched a missile, but it just landed a huge contract

ABL Space never launched a missile, but it just landed a huge contract
Zoom in / ABL’s portable launch system can be deployed to multiple locations.

ABL Space Systems

However, a California company that has not yet attempted to launch a missile has signed with Lockheed Martin for dozens of missions over the next decade.

Under the terms of the purchase agreement between ABL Space Systems and Lockheed, the airline giant will purchase “up to” 26 launches through 2026 and up to 32 additional launches through 2029. If conditions are met, this would amount to 58 launches over a range. The next eight years for ABL Space. In an industry where even one launch contract often produces a news release, holding five dozen launches is unprecedented for a private company.

ABL Space officials refused to provide specific financial terms for the agreement. However, ABL said the contract comes with a “substantial” minimum commitment beginning in 2022, as well as additional paid options every next year.

“This deal provides significant value to ABL,” Harry O’Hanley, co-founder and CEO of the company, told Lars. In terms of our business, the contract provides a steady source of demand from one of the largest players in the civil and defense space industries to cement our presence in the years to come. ”

The partnership will allow Lockheed, which builds large numbers of satellites for commercial customers, frequent, low-cost access to space. Perhaps it is not surprising that Lockheed chose ABL Space for its small launch needs, as Lockhead was an early investor in the launch company during an initial phase in 2019 and has continued to participate in additional fundraising rounds. ABL has raised a total of $ 219 million so far.

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“They are not our biggest investors, but they are among the top ten,” Dan Piemont, co-founder and president of ABL Space, said of Lockheed. “I think it’s fair to say that the business relationship is much more important than the investment relationship, but we totally appreciate their involvement in ABL in both traits.”

Before ABL Space can fulfill this contract, of course, it must demonstrate its ability to reach orbit. California-based El Segundo is developing a 1.35 metric ton missile called the RS1 to low Earth orbit. The missile’s first stage is powered by nine E2 engines, which burn liquid oxygen and kerosene, each producing 13,000 pounds of thrust. In this sense, the car resembles a Falcon 9 miniature missile. It has a base price of $ 12 million per flight.

Originally, the company had hoped to launch during the first half of 2021, but O’Hanley said that “external factors” were still gathering in that first mission. ABL is now targeting the third quarter of this year. The company uses a mobile launch system that can be packed into shipping containers and delivered via tractor trailers. This provides flexibility for launching from multiple locations, but for now, the RS1’s initial flight will take off from the Launch Complex-576E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, two hours north of the company’s headquarters.

The company has begun building its first five missiles and wants to make three launches this year – and eight or more in 2022. This is an ambitious goal, as several months to an entire year have passed historically between the missile’s initial test flight and subsequent missions.

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ABL RS1 has developed its production capabilities with rapid growth in mind. O’Hanley said the company can produce a complete RS1 fuel tank set in about three weeks, and ABL is developing a high-tempo drive test site at the Mojave Air & Space Port. This is how you hope to scale up operations to meet the numbers envisioned in the contract with Lockheed.

“We take the challenge of expansion very seriously and have a clear roadmap,” O’Hanley said.

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