Rocket Lab's Electron rocket liftoff. Credits: Rocket Lab

A Closer Look At Rocket Lab 2023 Results

Rocket Lab released the Q4 and full year 2023 Financial Results, giving company's plans and important updates about Neutron

On Feb. 27, the US private space company Rocket Lab released the Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2023 Financial Results, announcing the previous results, future plans, and updates on the development of the Neutron system.

The fourth quarter of 2023 has marked the important return to flight for Rocket Lab, following the failed 41st Electron launch which occurred in September. A rapid and efficient investigation, in collaboration with the FAA, granted the authorization to resume launches already in October. Three months later, on December 15, Rocket Lab successfully launched the “The Moon God Awakens” mission.

Electron liftoff carrying "Four Of A Kind" mission. Credits: Rocket Lab
Electron liftoff carrying “Four Of A Kind” mission. Credits: Rocket Lab

Last year also marked the inaugural launch of HASTE, a dedicated version of Electron for the testing of Hypersonic technologies in suborbital flights.

For 2024, Rocket Lab aims at launching 22 missions, including the two already launched in January and February. With ten launches in 2023, the company positioned itself second only to SpaceX in the USA, surpassing its previous record of 9. Last year, the space company also signed 25 new launch contracts with civil, commercial operators, defense and national security government customers.


The key role of space systems’ business

Consistent with previous years, the Space Systems business continues to be the most substantial contributor to Rocket Lab’s revenue and gross margins. In 2023, the company achieved a revenue of $244 million, reflecting a 16% increase compared to the previous year, slowed down only by a decrease in Q4, driven by a reduction in launches.

Evidence of this is the presentation of a new family of four spacecraft buses, developed and tailored for various customers and missions that can be built swiftly and affordably. Rocket Lab named them Photon, Pioneer, Explorer, and Lightning.

Rocket Lab's spacecrafts family. Credits: Rocket Lab
Rocket Lab’s spacecraft family. Credits: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab was awarded by The Space Development Agency (SDA) a $515 million contract to design, build, and operate 18 Tranche 2 Layer-Beta Data Transport satellites, as part of SDA’s Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture. The largest single contract in the company’s history.

In 2023, the production of 17 satellites for Globstar’s new LEO constellation also began. At the same time, Rocket Lab’s twin spacecraft for NASA’s ESCAPADE Mars mission are almost ready.

The company’s expertise played a key role in the successful Winnebago-1 mission. Rocket Lab designed and built the spacecraft that safely kept Varda’s capsule in orbit for eight months, then brought it with precision into the trajectory for reentry into Earth.

Varda hypersonic re-entry capsule, artistic rendering. Credits: Varda Space Industries
Varda hypersonic re-entry capsule, artistic rendering. Credits: Varda Space Industries


Neutron updates

In 2023 Rocket Lab continued the development of its future reusable rocket, Neutron, achieving key milestones in avionics development, including a successful Hardware-in-the-Loop (HITL) simulated flight to orbit and landing. Additionally, the first canard aerostructure was completed and tested.

Several fairing and intersage parts have been under development, with the firsts expected to be ready in Q1/Q2 2024. The assembly of Stage 1 tank components has begun, while a flight version of the Stage 2 tank is in production following the successful structural and cryogenic test campaign carried out last year.

Neutron' Stage 2 structural and cryogenic test campaign. Credits: Rocket Lab
Neutron’ Stage 2 structural and cryogenic test campaign. Credits: Rocket Lab

Key single elements of the Archimedes engine have been tested and are in the production phase. Full-scale engines will soon be assembled ahead of the first hot-fire test campaign.

Significant progress has been made in the construction of Launch Complex 3 (LC-3) at Wallops Flight Facility, with major concrete and civil works underway at the launch site. Over the next quarter, construction activities, including the water tower, propellant storage foundations, and gas storage foundations, will run in parallel.

Launch Complex 3 under construction. Credits: Rocket Lab
Launch Complex 3 under construction. Credits: Rocket Lab

The Archimedes test stand construction is substantially complete, undergoing activation in preparation for engine arrival. The project has achieved capital and speed efficiencies by utilizing infrastructure from the NASA A3 test stand.


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Francesco Sebastiano Moro

Francesco Sebastiano Moro

Aerospace engineering student at University of Padua, passionate of space and aerospace sector.

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