Lockheed invests in Rocket Lab's U.S. unit to keep pace with innovation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp said on Monday it had made a strategic investment in the U.S. unit of New Zealand’s Rocket Lab, which is building a carbon-composite rocket, the Electron, to launch small satellites into orbit for less than $5 million.

Lockheed spokesman Matt Kramer didn’t say how big the investment was, but said the company saw potential applications for Rocket Lab’s technologies light lift, hypersonic flight technologies and low-cost flight testing.

Rocket Lab disclosed Lockheed’s investment Monday when it announced that it had completed a Series B financing round led by Bessemer Venture Partners.

It said it would use the funding to complete its lightweight and cost-effective Electron launch vehicle, and start operating as a commercial launch provider as early as 2016.

Ned Allen, Lockheed’s chief scientist, said Lockheed’s investment in the New Zealand startup was aimed at helping Lockheed keep pace with innovation across the industry.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Bernadette Baum