Mixed messages about Rocketplane

Is Rocketplane Inc. in dire financial straits, or are they make progress on financing? Conflicting messages about the health of the company have been published this week. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) first reported Tuesday that the company had yet to close a $500-million financing round for the K-1 orbital vehicle that had been due at the end of July, and reported that the lead contractor for the K-1, ATK, had suspended work on the project. The Journal followed that up on Thursday with news that the company was laying off employees and issuing stop-work orders to subcontractors because of the financing problems.

A report Thursday in Rocketplane’s hometown newspaper, The Oklahoman, paints a more optimistic picture of the company’s circumstances. Company CEO George French blamed recent problems in the stock market for the company’s difficulty in lining up financing, but said Rocketplane was “making headway” in its financing. (Thursday’s WSJ article also suggests that Rocketplane was affected by investors who became jittery after the Scaled Composites accident last month.)

Without that financing, Rocketplane’s COTS award is in jeopardy (the company has to raise the $500 million to meet its next milestone). The Journal claims that a failure by Rocketplane to raise that money “creates significant policy and budget uncertainties” for NASA, although the agency is, in the worst-case scenario, only out the money it awarded to date to Rocketplane, and there are other companies, like SpaceDev and t/Space, waiting in the wings should NASA terminate its existing deal with Rocketplane. A failure in the K-1 development could bode ill for the XP suborbital vehicle, which has languished to some degree while the company has put most of its resources towards the K-1.

2 comments to Mixed messages about Rocketplane

  • Thomas Matula

    The assumption is that if Rocketplane fails to meet its milestone NASA will just award the COTS money to the first runner up. More likely it will use the money to cover other budget shortfalls.

    Also, all indications are the economy is going get a lot worst before it gets better. Money will be tight even for establish firms in established industries let alone firms that are in emerging industries like alt.space.

  • Ed

    I can’t believe that people may actually by into this sob story from RPK. Look these guys have been extend over and over deadlines to meet the criteria for cots milestones.
    But hey, I am sure that they will again get another extension as I am sure there are a lot of cushy retirement positions for NASA staff riding on the success of RPK to get these deals.

    I am going to state the same thing that I posted on RLV news,
    That these guys(RPK) are done…This company is a victim of poor management. Management that spent too much time thinking in bold strokes and they could not get their bird off the ground, let alone built.
    “George French the III” is out of his mind. Next these guys are going to blame Global warming for the reason they could not get the funding in place.
    Delusional, Ego maniac business leadership again is at fault here. Talk talk talk…= Nothing accomplished.

    “We were moving successfully toward that pipeline until the market went bad,” French said.”

    Ya right…let’s see. Based on their track record for financials and their performance in vapourware…I would say George, that the only people that would want to be involved financially with RPK
    Would have to be just as, or more delusional than French.

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