What happened

Rocket Lab USA (RKLB 0.58%) stock misfired Friday, its shares swinging wildly -- down 11% at the open, up 3% a little after 10 a.m., but now, at 11 a.m. EDT, back in the red again with a 5.9% loss.

The good news is: There is no bad news.

Horizontal Electron rocket.

Image source: Rocket Lab.

So what

I know it's crazy, but it's also true: Rocket Lab released no earnings warning or other bad news today. Neither did any analysts downgrade the stock or even adjust price targets lower. There's literally nothing happening here today.

And yet there has been quite a lot happening at Rocket Lab in the one month since it reported H1 2021 earnings, announcing that its sales have more than tripled since H1 2020, its backlog has doubled, and its gross margins have turned positive -- sending the shares up 37% in a day. Since that happy event, Rocket Lab has announced:

  • It will launch an orbital debris-cleanup mission for Astroscale, enabling an Astroscale satellite to rendezvous with an old Japanese rocket stage in orbit and nudge the space trash toward Earth, where it can burn up in the atmosphere.
  • The U.S. Space Force has awarded Rocket Lab $24.4 million to accelerate development of its Neutron medium-lift rocket for use on national security missions.
  • And NASA has contracted Rocket Lab to launch its experimental Advanced Composite Solar Sail System spaceship on an Electron rocket in mid-2022.

Now what

Taken individually, none of these contracts are game changers for Rocket Lab (although a new medium-lift rocket might have that potential). Viewed as a whole, however, it's clear that Rocket Lab's business is moving along quite nicely.

Granted, the company is still quite new to the public markets and doesn't have much of a track record (financially speaking; performance-wise, it's completed 21 missions and has four more scheduled through the end of this year, according to our friends at Next Spaceflight). Until the company starts earning consistent profits, I'd expect Rocket Lab's stock price to remain volatile -- but the long-term trend should be up.