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Rocket Lab Rings the Bell at Nasdaq as Space Investing Expands

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Rocket Lab is getting nearly $800 million via its SPAC deal.

Courtesy RocketLab

Rocket Lab USA rang the opening bell at the Nasdaq Wednesday morning, marking the company’s merger with a special-purpose acquisition company and making Rocket Lab a publicly traded company. As SPAC mergers wrap up, the number of space-investing options for investors is growing.

The merged company’s stock symbol changes from “VACQ” to “RKLB” today. The more important element of the merger is the $777 million in cash, received by Rocket Lab from the SPAC, to help build the company’s commercial space business.

Rocket Lab stock was down almost 11% in early trading. The S&P 500 was flat, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped about 0.1%. SPAC-merger stocks can be volatile around deal completion. Rocket Lab shares are still up about 4% since the merger vote was approved this past week.

Investors can buy stock in SPACs that agree to merge with startup companies even before those deals go through. The completion of a merger removes the risk that the merger will be voted down by SPAC shareholders.

Several new commercial space companies have completed their SPAC mergers, giving investors several space-investing options.

Momentus (MNTS) is building a space logistics franchise. It plans to move satellites to different orbits with reusable, space-based transports. AST SpaceMobile (ASTS) is building space-based infrastructure for mobile communications. Astra Space (ASTR) is a launch-services provider. And Spire Global (SPIR) is building a space-based earth imaging business.

Services provider Redwire is merging with Genesis Park Acquistion (GNPK) and earth imager BlackSky is merging with Osprey Technology Acquisition (SFTW). And Virgin Orbit just announced its plans to merge with NextGen Acquisition Corp II (NGCA) Those deals aren’t done yet.

Those eight stocks are worth about $18 billion, making the publicly traded commercial space industry relatively small.

The largest pure-play space franchise isn’t publicly traded. SpaceX is valued at about $74 billion in private markets. It provides launch services and is planning to offer space-based high-speed internet across the globe. Founder and Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk recently tweeted that SpaceX has shipped 100,000 receivers for its service.

SpaceX’s Starlink internet service might become publicly traded some day. Musk has hinted at the possibility, but it is still down the road.

Write to Al Root at allen.root@dowjones.com