Home / News / Firefly Aerospace acquires Spaceflight to boost on

Firefly Aerospace acquires Spaceflight to boost on

Oct 01, 2023Oct 01, 2023

by Alan Boyle on June 8, 2023 at 1:11 pmJune 8, 2023 at 4:40 pm

Texas-based Firefly Aerospace says it has acquired Bellevue, Wash.-based Spaceflight Inc. and will shift the operation's focus from satellite rideshare logistics to its line of orbital transfer vehicles.

Firefly says the strategic acquisition will add to its portfolio of low-cost space transportation services, ranging from launch vehicles to its Blue Ghost lunar lander.

"Spaceflight's flight-proven orbital vehicles, facilities and mission management expertise will support Firefly's rapid growth, provide a robust roadmap for investors, and meet the high demand for our on-orbit and responsive space services," Firefly Aerospace CEO Bill Weber said today in a news release. "The acquisition further accelerates Firefly's timeline to support end-to-end missions with launch, lunar, and in-space services."

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Spaceflight Inc. was established in Seattle in 2009. Ownership passed to a 50-50 joint venture between two Japanese companies — Mitsui & Co. and Yamasa Co. Ltd. — in 2020 as part of a complex deal that also involved a geospatial company called BlackSky and a share of a Tukwila, Wash.-based satellite manufacturing company called LeoStella.

Spaceflight will now fall under the Firefly Aerospace brand, said Risa Schnautz, Firefly's senior manager for marketing and communications. The entire Spaceflight team will be joining Firefly, and Schnautz said the team's talents, roles and responsibilities will be assessed in the months ahead.

"Firefly's plan is to utilize Spaceflight's Bellevue facilities to manufacture its orbital vehicles," Schnautz told GeekWire in an email. "Our Blue Ghost lunar lander will continue to be manufactured at our facility in Cedar Park, Texas."

Spaceflight was ranked No. 66 on the GeekWire 200, our list of privately held startups based in the Pacific Northwest.

Spaceflight's Sherpa orbital transfer vehicles are designed to be launched on rockets including SpaceX's Falcon 9. Multiple satellites can be attached to a single Sherpa, and then deployed into a variety of orbits after the orbital tug separates from its launch vehicle.

In addition to building Sherpas, Spaceflight Inc. has handled pre-launch arrangements for satellites on rideshare missions. But Schnautz said that part of the business will be de-emphasized.

"We’re currently assessing the needs of our combined customers to meet their mission requirements with Firefly's launch vehicles," Schnautz said. "Firefly will honor Spaceflight's current contracts but will not be aggregating payloads on other launch vehicles moving forward."

Firefly is a portfolio company of AE Industrial Partners, a private equity firm specializing in aerospace, defense and other industrial markets.

Weber said the acquisition of Spaceflight Inc. "is the result of Firefly's business plan to strengthen the company through organic growth in addition to accelerating its capabilities with strategic acquisitions."

Firefly's Alpha launch vehicle is manifested through 2023 with the U.S. Space Force, NASA and other commercial customers. The company is also developing a new medium-lift launch vehicle in collaboration with Northrop Grumman. Firefly's Blue Ghost lunar lander is due to complete the first of two planned missions to the moon next year with NASA as the anchor customer, and Firefly's Space Utility Vehicle has a mission scheduled early next year to demonstrate the vehicle's on-orbit capabilities.

"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," Weber said.

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