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Electron rockets
Electron rockets are under construction at Rocket Lab’s production facility in New Zealand. (Rocket Lab Photo)

Fresh on the heels of a successful satellite launch, Rocket Lab today announced that it has received $140 million in new investment.

Rocket Lab said the Series E financing round was led by Future Fund and closed last month, well in advance of last weekend’s “It’s Business Time” mission. The Electron rocket launch from the California-based startup’s pad on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula put six satellites in orbit and tested an experimental drag sail for small satellites.

The new round brings Rocket Lab’s total funding to $288 million and puts the company’s valuation well past a billion dollars, extending its status as a startup “unicorn.”

This month’s launch was only the second successful orbital mission for Rocket Lab, which was founded by New Zealand-born CEO Peter Beck in 2006. The Electron’s maiden launch in May 2017 made it to space but didn’t make it to orbit. This January, the second test launch successfully deployed satellites in orbit, setting the stage for a fully commercial follow-up.

“It has been a big year for Rocket Lab, with two successful missions to orbit and another about to roll out to the pad, but it’s even more significant for the global small satellite industry that now has a fully commercial, dedicated ride to space,” Beck said in a news release. “This funding also enables the continued aggressive scale-up of Electron production to support our targeted weekly flight rate. It will also see us build additional launch pads and begin work on three major new R&D programs.”

Last month, Rocket Lab opened a rocket production facility in New Zealand and announced plans to build a second launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Future Fund had invested in Rocket Lab previously. Other existing investors contributing to the Series E round include Greenspring Associates, Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, DCVC (Data Collective), Promus Ventures and K1W1. A new investor, ACC, also contributed to the round.

“We were fortunate enough to follow Rocket Lab’s journey from their initial engine program to the first launch, the factory scale-up and now the start of commercial operations, all of which happened in record time,” said Sven Strohband, who is a partner and chief technology officer at Khosla Ventures as well as a member of Rocket Lab’s board.

Although Rocket Lab’s status as a space unicorn is notable, it’s not the space industry’s most highly valued company in private hands. SpaceX, founded by tech billionaire Elon Musk, is thought to be valued at $23 billion or more. Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos is the founder and sole owner of his Blue Origin space venture, which makes it virtually impossible to estimate valuation. However, Bezos has acknowledged that he’s investing $1 billion a year in Blue Origin.

Correction for 5:35 p.m. PT Nov. 15: The headline on a previous version of this report listed an incorrect amount for the funding round ($150 million instead of the actual $140 million).

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