LONG BEACH, Calif.—Rocket Lab USA, Inc., a manufacturer of launch and space systems hardware, reported that construction is underway on a new production facility capable of supplying up to 2,000 reaction wheels per year. The new facility will expand Rocket Lab’s Space Systems business and is needed to fulfill growing demand from satellite constellation customers, the company said in a release.
Rocket Lab currently has a 380,000-square-foot manufacturing footprint, with agreements to supply reaction wheels for an undisclosed number of satellite constellations. The production line incorporates advanced metal machining centers optimized for unattended operation; automated production tools; and automated environmental testing workstations. More than 16 new roles are expected to support the new production facility and the growing Space Systems operations at Rocket Lab by the end of the year, according to the release.
Rocket Lab’s Space Systems business was strengthened in 2020 by the acquisition of Toronto-based Sinclair Interplanetary, a prominent provider of high-quality, flight-proven satellite hardware, including reaction wheels and star trackers. Sinclair Interplanetary is said to have pioneered high-reliability reaction wheels for small satellites. Nearly 200 of such wheels are currently operating on orbit, Rocket Lab said in the release.
According to Rocket Lab Founder and Chief Executive Officer Peter Beck, the new production facility leverages Sinclair Interplanetary’s heritage, marrying it with Rocket Lab’s extensive experience in high-rate manufacture of aerospace components for the Electron launch vehicle. As a result, Rocket Lab can make available to customers, at scale, what it considers to be best-in-class satellite hardware.
“For the longest time, spacecraft and satellite components have been built individually by highly specialized engineers with a high price tag and long wait times to match,” Beck said in the release. “With the rise in constellations, the demand for high-quality components and spacecraft produced at scale continues to grow, and we’re addressing the bottleneck head on. Halfway through 2021, we had already surpassed the total number of satellite components produced by Sinclair annually, and we’re continuing to accelerate production to meet the needs of our customers.”
Rocket Lab satellite components, including reaction wheels and star trackers, are now used in more than 200 satellites globally, including the constellations BlackSky and Kepler Communications. Since acquiring Sinclair Interplanetary, Rocket Lab has added 2,700 square feet of production space to the Sinclair Interplanetary facilities in Toronto, Canada. It has also expanded the team to support higher production volume and enable R&D for new satellite hardware and products, the company said in the release.