According to a press release issued on September 1, Rocket Lab is increasing the manufacture of satellite components in order to fulfil demand from companies creating satellite constellations. Company officials claimed they are increasing the development of reaction wheels, which are components used to regulate spaceship orientation. Following the acquisition of Sinclair Interplanetary, which is a smallsat component maker, by the corporation in April 2020, the company began supplying such components.
In its first year of operation, the new manufacturing line will be capable of producing up to about 2,000 reaction wheels per year. According to Peter Beck, chief executive officer of Rocket Lab, when Rocket Lab acquired Sinclair Interplanetary, the company was producing between 100 and 150 wheels each year. “Moving up to a few of thousand is a significant step up.”
The new production line will utilize Rocket Lab facilities situated in New Zealand, even though Sinclair Interplanetary was situated in Toronto and Rocket Lab works on the Photon satellite bus situated in Long Beach, California. In his words, “we produce things in areas where it provides the most logical sense.” “For this specific product, we had the space available on the manufacturing floor in New Zealand. It is appropriate to a variety of other items that we manufacture in that country.”
Customers creating satellite constellations have increased their need for response wheels, although Beck didn’t mention any specific customers in his presentation. According to Beck, a typical satellite has 3 - 4 reaction wheels for every spacecraft, which means 2,000 reaction wheels can support “a reasonably substantial volume of spacecraft every year.”
In contrast to how most of the space business had traditionally functioned, notably Sinclair before Rocket Lab acquired it, this volume represents a significant increase. According to him, “scale is a hindrance to the space sector as a whole.” Many component makers are small and don’t produce vast quantities of things, making them more competitive. The majority of the time, people’s heads burst when you go into one of these stores and request for 2,000 of something.
Rocket Lab’s plans for Photon compelled the business to vertically consolidate much of the supply chain, as seen by its acquisition of Sinclair Corporation. ‘How could we offer a delivery schedule for Photon of 6 months when it took us nine to twelve months to procure a reaction wheel,’ he questioned. “This is also true for a large number of other space-related components.”
As he put it, “if the space sector is going to grow into this trillion-dollar sector with vast numbers of mega-constellations,” there must be an understanding of the “scale,” he added. Orders in big quantities must be able to be placed by customers.”