Electron rockets undergo preparation for launch.
Rocket Lab said Tuesday it has doubled its order backlog — from about $241 million in contracts at the end of 2021 to $503.6 million at the end of 2022 — and made progress on the Neutron rocket that it’s developing.
“2022 we are generally very, very happy with, and what’s important to me is that we did what we said we’re going to do,” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck told CNBC.
“We pride ourselves on executing and we’ll back ourselves to execute this year,” Beck added.
The space company also reported fourth-quarter revenue of $51.8 million, up 88% from a year prior, with an adjusted EBITDA loss of $14.5 million – which was 75% wider than the fourth quarter a year ago. It had $484.3 million in cash on hand at the quarter’s end.
Rocket Lab conducted two successful launches of its Electron vehicle during the quarter, generating $12 million in revenue. Its broader Space Systems division continues to bring in the bulk of its revenue, generating $38.8 million.
The company also announced completion of the first production building for its coming Neutron rocket, built at NASA’s Wallops flight facility in Virginia. Rocket Lab began production of the first Neutron tank structures, as well as construction of the launch pad for the rocket. As for the next major milestone in development, Beck told CNBC that will be when there are “complete tanks rolling out” of its factory.
“With a composite launch vehicle, when the actual parts are coming off the molds, then that’s a far stronger indicator of progress than anything else,” Beck said. “To get to that point where we’re actually manufacturing these parts I think is a huge milestone in itself, but a bigger milestone is when a tank actually rolls out the door.”
Alongside its results, Rocket Lab announced a contract for four Electron launches from satellite company Capella Space. Those missions are scheduled to begin in the second half of the year.
Sign up here to receive weekly editions of CNBC’s Investing in Space newsletter.
Shares of Rocket Lab are up 19% so far this year, as of Tuesday’s close at $4.50.
The company last month launched its first mission from the U.S. successfully. It aims to complete as many as 14 more Electron launches this year. For the first quarter of 2023, Rocket Lab expects to see launch revenue of about $18 million, and between $32 million to $35 million in Space Systems revenue.
Beck noted that Rocket Lab’s path to profitability is impacted by the “really heavy investments” it’s making in Neutron.
“I don’t think we’re terribly off our model in that respect, but it is heavily influenced by the spending rate and the success of the Neutron program, ultimately,” Beck said.
The company also announced that Bessemer Venture Partners’ David Cowan is leaving Rocket Lab’s board of directors in the first quarter, after nine years advising the company.
The company’s Electron rocket lifts off from LC-2 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Jan. 24, 2023.
Brady Kenniston / Rocket Lab