Rocket builder ABL is raising $ 170 million from T. Rowe, Fidelity to become the newest space unicorn

An RS1 rocket amplifier is subjected to an acceptance test.

ABL Space

Missile builder ABL Space announced Thursday that it had closed a $ 170 million financing round. This makes him the youngest private space company to achieve unicorn status.

ABL raised $ 1.3 billion in funds from T. Rowe Price, Fidelity Management, a third unnamed investment firm, and existing investors.

“We have always prided ourselves on capital efficiency,” ABL CEO Harry O’Hanley told CNBC, noting that the company has spent “well under” $ 50 million to date.

“When you compare us to other companies that are spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing launch vehicles, you should see how radically different our underlying approach has to be to achieve this,” added O’Hanley.

Previously, the company had raised $ 49 million in venture capital with Venrock, New Science Ventures, Lynett Capital, and Lockheed Martin Ventures, among others. ABL had also announced contracts from the Air Force Research Laboratory and Afwerx worth nearly $ 45 million. The company announced Thursday that it has contracts from 10 commercial and government customers.

“We believe the global space economy has significant long-term growth potential,” said Jason Adams, manager of T. Rowe Price’s Global Industrials Fund, in a statement. “We believe that ABL has a management team, technology kit and product strategy designed to enable long-term competitive advantage.”

The first stage of the company’s RS1 missile after welding is complete.

ABL Space

ABL’s RS1 rocket is 88 feet tall and can put up to 1,350 kg (nearly 1½ tons) of payload into near-earth orbit. The price for each launch is $ 12 million. This puts RS1 in the middle of the commercial launch market, between Rocket Lab’s smaller Electron for $ 7 million and SpaceX’s heavy Falcon 9 for $ 62 million.

ABL also competes against several other companies developing medium-lift missiles. Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit recently entered orbit, while ABL, along with Relativity Space and Firefly Aerospace, are aiming for their first launches this year.

In addition to the economic approach of ABL’s missile development process, the company also praised the efficiency of its deployable GS0 ground system. These are essentially the barebones of a launch system – erector, refueling, electrics, control center, and more – packaged in some standard-size shipping containers.

One of the shipping containers in which the deployable GS0 start system infrastructure is located.

ABL Space

O’Hanley said in January that ABL’s missile program had already been fully funded through its first mission. On Thursday, he said the additional $ 170 million in capital “will give us the ability to increase the starting rate to meet all of the demand we see in 2022 and beyond.”

“It will also allow us to carefully explore more opportunities in both space technology and other areas,” said O’Hanley.

ABL’s new rating also makes it the youngest space company to break the unicorn mark over $ 1 billion. The company is now among the most valuable in the growing space industry, led by SpaceX valued at $ 74 billion, followed by a number of companies that announced SPAC deals over the past six months.

“We see our assessment less as an achievement and more as a serious responsibility for creating value,” said ABL President and CFO Dan Piemont to CNBC. “We have never optimized for valuation and have kept most of our successes private. We know we still have a lot to prove. We want to build an enduring company with the best employees, customers and investors in the world.”

“Hopefully this round shows that something special is going on under the hood here at ABL. If you would like to find out more, please contact us,” added Piedmont.

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