Lockheed Martin’s primary interest in large rocket launches is via its half share (with Boeing) in the United Launch Alliance (ULA), but it is striking out with a different partner, the small launch vehicle provider ABL Space Systems. Lockheed Martin has contracted ABL to provide up to 58 launches of its RS1 launch vehicle (26 launches until 2025 and 32 from 2026 until 2029). Officially, the list price of an RS1 launch is US$12 million and the rocket’s payload capacity is stated as 1,350 kg to LEO and 1,000 to SSO. Even if this figure fell to US$10 million per launch under a bulk discount for this multi-launch deal, the contract could potentially be worth US$580 million. At the US$12 million sticker price the figure is circa US$700 million.
ABL made headlines earlier this year in choosing to launch its RS1 rockets from Unst in the Shetland Islands, rather than the Sutherland Spaceport on the Scottish mainland. Nevertheless, there are problems. For the time being the project is stalled as planning permission for the Unst site has not yet been granted.
Comment by Matt Wilson: Lockheed Martin became a “strategic investor” in ABL during 2019. This broad-reaching contract coupled with a recent round of fundraising – finished in March – which generated US$170 million, puts the company in an enviable position among its aspiring small launcher compatriots. ABL also benefits greatly from this order. A bulk buy such as this does have a substantial beneficial effect on the economics of the launch vehicle’s production. ABL is hoping to conduct the maiden flight of its RS1 rocket this year.