NASA Selects Rocket Lab for ACS3 Launch; Shares Rise 9.2% Pre-Market

NASA has selected California-based end-to-end space company Rocket Lab USA (RKLB) to launch its Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3) on the company’s Electron launch vehicle.

Rocket Lab has been selected for the launch because the Electron launch vehicle’s Kick Stage can deploy individual satellites to unique orbits, even as part of rideshare.

The company provides launch services, spacecraft components, satellites and other spacecraft and on-orbit management solutions. Its shares were trading 9.2% up, at the time of writing, in early trade on Thursday. (See Rocket Lab stock chart on TipRanks)

Since ACS3 needs a higher altitude compared with other rideshare payloads on the same mission, the Kick Stage will perform another burn, after deploying the first payloads, to raise the orbit and deploy ACS3.

So far, the Kick Stage has shown orbit raises across 18 missions as well as conducted orbit lowering and inclination changes. ACS3 will be launched from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in mid-2022.

The CEO of Rocket Lab, Peter Beck, said, “It seems fitting to launch NASA’s Advanced Composite Solar Sail System on Electron, the world’s first full-carbon composite orbital launch vehicle.”

Last month, Stifel Nicolaus analyst Erik Rasmussen launched coverage on the stock with a Buy rating and a price target of $22 (57.1% upside potential).

The analyst said, “The small satellite market has exploded, and Rocket Lab has established a leading position.”

Overall, the stock has a Strong Buy consensus rating based on 3 Buys and 1 Hold. The average Rocket Lab USA price target of $22 implies 57.1% upside potential. Shares have gained 43.7% over the past year.

According to TipRanks’ Smart Score rating system, Rocket Lab scores a “Perfect 10,” suggesting that the stock is likely to outperform market averages.

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