- Parabolic Arc
- September 15, 2023
Biz Briefs: Firefly Acquires Spaceflight Inc., York Acquires Emergent Space Technologies
Welcome to Biz Briefs! In today’s edition, Firefly Aerospace acquired Spaceflight Inc., York Space Systems completed its acquisition of Emergent Space Technologies, NASA and Boeing indefinitely postponed the first crewed CST-100 Starliner flight, NASA selected 300 small-business proposals for funding, Hughes and OneWeb announced an agreement to provide broadband services to airlines, and much more.
Mergers & Acquisitions
Launch provider Firefly Aerospace has acquired Spaceflight Inc., a company that arranges launch opportunities and provides on-orbit transportation for small satellites.
“This acquisition is the result of Firefly’s business plan to strengthen the company through organic growth in addition to accelerating its capabilities with strategic acquisitions,” said Firefly CEO Bill Weber. “The combination of Spaceflight’s on-orbit experience with Firefly’s launch vehicles, Blue Ghost landers, and Space Utility Vehicles is an overnight game changer for our customers and investors.”
Firefly operates the Alpha small-satellite launch vehicle and is developing a medium launch vehicle. Spaceflight has supported the deployment of 460 payloads into space.
Denver-based satellite manufacturer York Space Systems has completed the acquisition of Emergent Space Technologies, a Maryland company focused on developing and fielding mission software and guidance, navigation and control solutions for multi-spacecraft missions.
“We view the continued growth of our software capabilities as a critical step in expanding York’s offerings and accelerating our ability to execute for all our customers. This major acquisition ensures the right technology and resources are immediately available to deliver exceptional end-to-end mission solutions on time and at the fixed prices each of our customers expects,” said York CEO Dirk Wallinger.
Raises & Venture Capital
The European Investment Fund is providing €60 million (USD $64.2 million) to Alpine Space Ventures, a German capital fund focused on the NewSpace sector that is run by former SpaceX vice president Bulent Altan. Alpine has now raised more than €100 million (USD $107 million) of the €160 million (USD $171.2 million) the company is looking to raise.
ESpace Networks has raised a $10 million Series A round from Columbia Capital. The Miramar, Fla., company focuses on enterprise software solutions that airplanes, cruise ships and other moving objects connected to satellite networks. ESpace also announced that former Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce and IMDC Founder Walé Adepoju will be joining the board of directors.
Boston-based Fortify has raised $12.5 million to accelerate the company growth in advanced materials and additive manufacturing. Investors included Lockheed Martin Ventures and RTX Ventures, the venture capital arms of Lockheed and Raytheon Technologies, respectively.
This strategic investment will enable Fortify to expand its capabilities and accelerate the development of its groundbreaking Digital Composite Manufacturing (DCM) platform,” the company said in a press release. “Fortify’s DCM platform revolutionizes the manufacturing of complex structures by offering unique mechanical, electrical, thermal, and electromagnetic properties.”
Starburst Aerospace, Mission Innovation X at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT MIx), and MassChallenge have partnered with NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic to accelerate the development of emerging and disruptive dual-use technologies.
NASA and Boeing have indefinitely delayed the first crewed flight test of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft due to flammable tape in the spacecraft and safety concerns over the vehicle’s parachute system. NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams had been scheduled to launch on a week-long flight test to the International Space Station on July 21.
NASA’s Inspector General said the space agency’s mismanagement of rocket engine contracts has resulted in the Space Launch System being six years behind schedule and at least $6 billion over budget.
The European Service Module-2 and Orion crew module adapter for the first crewed Artemis flight to the moon has been moved into the Final Assembly and System Testing (FAST) cell inside NASA’s Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Sidus Space has been awarded an additional hardware manufacturing subcontract in support of SLS. Sidus will fabricate umbilical quick disconnects for the rocket’s Universal Stage Adapter under a contract with Craig Technologies.
ESA has invited European companies to submit proposals to deliver cargo to ISS and future private space stations on a commercial basis. Europe does not currently provide resupply services to the space station. American and Russian cargo ships service ISS at present.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon that docked at the space station on Tuesday carried experiments, technology demonstrations and satellites to the seven-person crew. These included life science and material payloads, the CLINGERS autonomous docking system designed by University of Southern California engineering students, and a student-designed experiment designed to study how effect of weightlessness on the sections of DNA that protect chromosomes from damage.
Cargo Dragon also delivered six CubeSats, including the hackable Moonlighter satellite that astronauts will deploy into orbit at a later date. Hackers on Earth will conduct experiments that could identify methods to prevent the hacking of satellites on orbit. The Aerospace Corporation developed Moonlighter in partnership with the U.S. Space Systems Command and the Air Force Research Laboratory. The project was sponsored by the ISS National Laboratory and supported by Nanoracks.
NASA has selected 300 proposals from 249 small businesses and 39 research institutions for funding under its Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. NASA will spend $45 million with each proposal receiving $150,000 to assist in the development of new technologies.
L3Harris has awarded a contract to MDA to build 14 sets of Ka-Band steerable antennas and control electronics for the Space Development Agency’s Tranche 1 tracking layer constellation. The satellites will provide warnings of incoming ballistic and hypersonic missiles. The amount of the contract was not disclosed.
NASA has selected Osi Vision, LLC of San Antonio, to provide program support and course development/delivery for NASA’s Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership Knowledge Services (APPEL KS) activities. The $60 million agreement has a base period of one year, with four one-year options and one six-month option.
Hughes Network Systems and OneWeb have signed a distribution partner agreement to provide LEO connectivity services to the global airline market. As a worldwide OneWeb distributor, Hughes is launching new LEO in-flight connectivity (IFC) solutions, powered by the company’s electronically steered antenna (ESA), for airlines to deliver fast, low-latency and reliable passenger Wi-Fi.
Hughes LEO In-Flight solutions include a LEO-only offering and an industry-first, patent-pending, hybrid solution that leverages Hughes Fusion technologies to transform any Geostationary orbit (GEO) aero service into a fast, low latency onboard Wi-Fi experience.
Seattle-based Hubble Network wants to build a 300-satellite constellation to provide global communications for millions of Bluetooth-enabled devices. The first four satellites are scheduled to be launched on SpaceX’s Transporter-10 mission in January 2024.
BeetleSat said it has accomplished successful two-way data communication with its NSLSAT-2 satellite using the spacecraft’s lightweight, high data rate antenna. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the 6U CubeSat with its 60 cm expandable antenna in January. BeetleSat is planning to launch a constellation of 250 Ka-band satellites to provide secure point-to point communications, cellular backhaul, mobility and other services,
Sidus Space will launch hyperspectral and multispectral imaging and Edge Artificial Intelligence (AI) in its LizzieSat satellite on SpaceX Transporter missions beginning in 2024. Sidus said its sub-5m ground sampling distance (GSD) multispectral SWIR, coupled with sub-10m hyperspectral imagery capabilities will provide the company with a competitive advantage in serving the $55.6 billion small-satellite market.
Nuview is planning to launch the world’s first commercial light detecting and ranging (LiDAR) satellite constellation in order to produce a 3D map of the world. LiDAR uses a pulsed laser system to measure variable distances from space to the planet’s surface. Nuview’s 20-satellite constellation will use LiDAR to see through clouds and darkness.
LeoStella has delivered its third satellite to Loft Orbital Solutions. The latest spacecraft was modeled on LeoStella’s LS-100 satellite bus. It is the 20th satellite manufactured by LeoStella since the company’s formation in 2019.
The first satellite developed under the Triton-X multi-mission platform program for low Earth orbit is on its way to be integrated onto a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for launch in October. Triton-X Genesis was built in less than 10 months using generic off-the-shelf building blocks, high-performance field programmable gate arrays, and micro-controllers. Triton-X Genesis was developed under an ESA partnership with LuxSpace.
Neumann Space has signed a contract with Space Inventor for the integration of its Neumann Drive lightweight solar-electric ion thruster on a 6U EDISON satellite scheduled for launch in the second half of 2024. The EDISON Mission is a part of the ESA‘s Pioneer program, which supports emerging companies seeking to provide new and innovative satellite communications technologies and services.
Thales Alenia Space has shipped the communications module for the SpainSat NG-I telecommunications satellite from its manufacturing plant in Spain to Airbus Defence and Space‘s facility in Toulouse, France, where the satellite will be assembled, integrated and tested. The SpainSat NG program will provide continuity of the secure communications services to the Spanish Ministry of Defence and government agencies.
ThinKom has unveiled its hybrid ThinAir Plus communications system that combines two separate antennas in a single installation. ThinAir Plus is designed to give airlines or integrators the full flexibility of satellite constellations and networks.
Power & Propulsion
Astrobotic Technology and Westinghouse Electric Co. have signed a memorandum of understanding to explore collaborating on space nuclear technology and delivery systems for NASA and the Department of Defense. Last year, Westinghouse received support from Astrobotic in capturing a $5 million NASA/DOE contract to provide an initial design concept for a 5-MW eVinci fission lunar surface power system.
Pulsar Fusion has entered into a research partnership with Princeton Satellite Systems to apply nuclear fusion propulsion to future space travel. The partners will apply machine learning to study data from the Princeton field-reverse configuration (PFRC-2) reactor to advance delivery of practical fusion propelled spacecraft that can make interstellar space travel practical.
Rocket Factory Augsburg performed a successful 280-second hot-fire test of its staged-combustion Helix upper stage engine for its RFA One small-satellite launch vehicle.
Two commercial launch complexes are under construction in China as efforts to commercialize the nation’s government-run space industry accelerates.
Appointments & Hires
Space data and tracking company Slingshot Aerospace has added the former head of Spaceport Cornwall, Melissa Quinn, and former Axiom Space Associate General Counsel Megan Sieffert to its executive team. Quinn will replace Tim Fuller as general manager of Slingshot Seradata. Sieffert will serve as Slingshot’s general counsel.
NASA has appointed Iris Lan as the agency’s new general counsel, effective immediately. She succeeds Sumara Thompson-King, who retired from NASA last December. Lan previously served as deputy attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice.
A NASA review board said the Psyche asteroid mission is on track for a launch later this year.
MDA is working with Thoth Technology to create a made-in-Canada deep space radar surveillance and space domain awareness (SDA) capability. Under the strategic cooperation agreement, MDA commercial data services will be integrated with Thoth’s ground-based radar technology to provide sovereign monitoring in deep space over Canada
Thales Alenia Space has joined a consortium led by Serco that is developing the ESA-funded awarded DestinE Core Service Platform (DESP). The platform is a key element of the European Commission‘s Destination Earth (DestinE) initiative, whose objective is to develop highly accurate digital models of the Earth that will help governments to anticipate extreme natural events and adapt policies to climate-related challenges.
Leonard David looks at Space Race 2.0 as the United States, China, Russia and other nations eye the lunar south pole, which is believed to contain water ice that could be used to support human exploration and settlement.
ESA is surveying European industry about best practices. The questionnaire takes about 15 minutes to complete. ESA’s SME office will provide feedback and follow-up.