Image: Rocket Lab
Rocket Lab’s Electron on the company’s New Zealand launchpad.

Rocket Lab expanded its lead on the budding industry of small rocket companies, announcing a $140 million investment round led by Australia’s sovereign wealth fund.

Rocket Lab, a small launch vehicle developer that recently performed its first commercial launch, has raised an additional $140 million to fund the expansion of its launch activities and research projects.

Rocket Lab has moved from a company testing a rocket to one that has truly begun commercial operations. With the third flight of its Electron booster, the company delivered seven different satellites into orbit as part of its first fully commercial spaceflight.

Rocket Lab is building small rockets priced at about $5.7 million a launch. The company’s Electron rocket is designed to launch spacecraft up to the size of a refrigerator, especially for the premium small satellite part of the rocketing market.

Small rockets like Electron can save customers months of time getting to orbit but come at a higher cost compared to flying as a “rideshare” on a larger rocket like the SpaceX Falcon 9.

The company announced last week, on Nov. 15 that it closed a Series E funding round, led by existing investor Future Fund, an Australian sovereign wealth fund. With the new $140 million in the bank, Rocket Lab is set up to kick its manufacturing facilities into high gear and this year the rocket company opened a new mass production facility in New Zealand and announced it will build a U.S. launchpad in Virginia.

Rocket Lab, though, is facing growing competition in the very low-price market. Virgin Orbit, which is developing the LauncherOne air-launch system for small satellites, is gearing up for captive carry tests flights ahead of an initial launch late this year or early next year