RocketLab to Receive $23.9M from CHIPS and Science Act


The investment would increase RocketLab’s semiconductor production by 50 percent.

Teralyn Whipple RocketLab to Receive $23.9M from CHIPS and Science Act Photo of Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology Laurie Locascio

June 11, 2024 – The Biden Administration announced Tuesday that the Department of Commerce and RocketLab signed a preliminary memorandum of terms that would provide up to $23.9 million in funding through the CHIPS and Science Act.

Rocket Lab, aerospace manufacturer and launch service provider, will use the money to create a more “robust and resilient supply of space-grade solar cells that power spacecrafts and satellites.” The company owns the space power provider SolAero Technologies.

The project would increase Rocket Lab’s semiconductor production by 50 percent over the next three years, and would create over 100 direct manufacturing jobs.

Semiconductors are the microprocessors that power smartphones and washing machines and automobiles. But today, the U.S. produces only 12 percent of the world’s supply, none of which are the most advanced. This is down from 40 percent in 1990.

In the face of rising competitiveness in China, Congress passed the $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. It is designed to spur American leadership in semiconductor research, development and production. The Department of Commerce received more than 670 statements of interest, and 230 pre- and full applications for the program.

Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Rocket Lab is one of two companies in the United States that specializes in production of highly efficient and radiation resistant compound semiconductors called space grade solar cells. These devices are used to convert light to electricity in space and are important to U.S. space programs such as missile awareness systems and exploratory science missions.

“Solar cells are important for keeping our communication and space technology powered and operational, and this proposed award would help our military, NASA, and our commercial space industry have access to the specialty semiconductors they need to keep our country safe and continue to lead in scientific discoveries and space commerce,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo at the announcement of the memorandum. 

Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and National Institute of Standards and Technology Director Laurie Locascio said that “solar cells are increasingly important to maintaining the United States’ leadership in space,” adding that “today’s announcement demonstrates a commitment to revitalizing all areas of America’s semiconductor industry alongside the research and development that makes these advances possible.” 

“As the United States and other nations expand their technological presence in space, particularly with Low Earth Orbit  satellites that provide for more resiliency in space, there is a need for more space-grade solar cells to enable the industry’s transition,” said the Biden Administration. “Space-based defense systems are also important components for our economic and national security, and are reliant on solar power.”