Rocket Lab is buying SolAero Holdings, a supplier of space solar power products and precision aerospace structures for US$80 million in cash. 

The acquisition is expected to close in the first quarter of 2022.

“SolAero is a highly complementary addition to Rocket Lab’s vertically integrated business model and strengthens our ability to streamline space for our customers by delivering complete space mission solutions,” said Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck.

It is Rocket Lab’s third proposed acquisition this year, following space software company ASI Aerospace in October and spacecraft separation systems company Planetary Systems, completed this month. 

The latest deal aligns with Rocket Lab’s strategy to deliver a comprehensive space solution that spans spacecraft manufacture, satellite subsystems, flight software, ground operations, and launch, it said. 

SolAero is one of two companies producing high-efficiency, space-grade solar cells in the US.

According to Rocket Lab, its “space solar cells are among the highest performing in the world and support civil space exploration, science, defense and intelligence, and commercial markets”.

The deal means SolAero can tap into Rocket Lab’s resources and manufacturing capability to boost high-volume production, it said. 

Founded in 1998 and headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, SolAero’s solar cells, solar panels, and composite structural products have supported more than 1,000 successful space missions. 

Among other things, it led the development and manufacturing of the solar panel on Ingenuity, the helicopter that successfully flew on Mars in April this year, marking the first-ever powered, controlled flight on a planet other than Earth.

The company’s 425-strong team brings Rocket Lab’s total headcount to more than 1,100 employees across its space manufacturing complexes, test facilities, and launch sites in California, Virginia, Colorado, Maryland, Toronto, New Zealand and now Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

The SolAero team will continue to be led by president and chief executive Brad Clevenger at its production facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico.