AES Semigas


14 June 2024

Rocket Lab allocated $23.9m US CHIPS Act funding

Launch services and space systems provider Rocket Lab USA Inc has signed a non-binding preliminary memorandum of terms (PMT) with the Department of Commerce that would see Rocket Lab receive up to $23.9m in direct funding under the CHIPS and Science Act.

The proposed investment would enable Rocket Lab to increase its production of compound semiconductors for spacecraft and satellites, as part of an expansion and modernization of its facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Rocket Lab acquired SolAero Technologies Inc in 2022, making Rocket Lab one of only two companies in the USA — and three companies outside of Russia and China — that specializes in the production of highly efficient and radiation-resistant compound semiconductor-based space-grade solar cells. The space-grade solar cells produced in Albuquerque power critical space programs such as missile awareness systems and exploratory science missions including the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s Artemis lunar explorations, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, and the Mars Insight Lander. Rocket Lab’s technology also serves a booming commercial satellite market, such as powering the OneWeb broadband internet satellite constellation.

The proposed CHIPS investment would help create a more robust and resilient supply of space-grade solar cells. The modernization and expansion project would also increase Rocket Lab’s compound semiconductor production by 50% within the next three years, helping to domestically meet the growing national security and consumer demand for these solar cells.

In addition to these proposed federal incentives, the State of New Mexico has also committed to provide financial assistance and incentives worth $25.5m to Rocket Lab in support of this effort.

“For more than two decades the SolAero team, now part of Rocket Lab, has played a crucial role in the domestic production of semiconductors,” says Rocket Lab founder & CEO Sir Peter Beck. “This program is a continuation of our commitment to ensuring resilient US supply chains and creating highly productive local jobs,” he adds.

“Rocket Lab has called New Mexico home for 25 years, first as SolAero Technologies and now as a thriving modern company manufacturing space solar cell technology,” commented Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. “Rocket Lab’s expansion will bring more than 100 new jobs to New Mexico. This is just the latest example of how the CHIPS and Science Act is fueling new technology and high-wage jobs,” she adds.

“With this funding, our satellites won’t be dependent on foreign sources for solar power, and instead use American-manufactured solar cells made from compound semiconductors,” notes Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández.

Rocket Lab plans to claim the Department of the Treasury’s Investment Tax Credit, which is expected to be up to 25% of qualified capital expenditures. As explained in its first Notice of Funding Opportunity, the Department may offer applicants a PMT on a non-binding basis after satisfactory completion of the merit review of a full application. The PMT outlines key terms for a potential CHIPS incentives award, including the amount and form of the award. The award amounts are subject to due diligence and negotiation of award documents and are conditional on the achievement of certain milestones. After the PMT is signed, the Department begins a comprehensive due diligence process on the proposed projects and continues negotiating or refining certain terms with the applicant. The terms contained in any final award documents may differ from the terms of the PMT announced.

See related item:

5N Plus supplying substrates to SolAero for Airbus OneWeb Satellites

Emcore closes sale of Space Photovoltaics business to Veritas Capital affiliate for $150m

Tags: III-V multi-junction solar cells




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