SpaceX is set to acquire the small satellite data providing start-up Swarm Technologies in a rare move from Elon Musk’s space company.
As part of the deal, SpaceX will absorb the company’s network of 120 satellites, as well as approximately 30 employees. The merger, which was signed on July 16, will see Swarm become a wholly owned subsidiary of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, according to FCC filings.
Swarm operates 120 smallsats (small satellites) that provide affordable, two-way communications largely for the agriculture, energy and transport industries. Each satellite is smaller than a single-unit cubesat — which measures 10cm x 10cm x 10cm.
According to Swarm’s FCC filing, the merger aims to strengthen “the combined companies’ ability to provide innovative satellite services that reach unserved and underserved parts of the world.”
“SpaceX will similarly benefit from access to the intellectual property and expertise developed by the Swarm team, as well as from adding this resourceful and effective team to SpaceX,” the filing states.
Additionally, the FCC filing notes that the acquisition will allow Swarm to better compete with other companies in the satellite space, with the backing of SpaceX.
“Swarm’s services will benefit from the better capitalisation and access to resources available to SpaceX, as well as the synergies associated with acquisition by a provider of satellite design, manufacture, and launch services,” the filing states.
However, it is less clear how SpaceX benefits from the new acquisition, with the satellites operating in a completely different frequency band to the SpaceX Starlink satellites. But by the sounds of the filing, SpaceX is keen to get its hands on the employees’ expertise and intellectual property.
“SpaceX will similarly benefit from access to the intellectual property and expertise developed by the Swarm team, as well as from adding this resourceful and effective team to SpaceX,” the document states.
The move is particularly rare considering SpaceX almost exclusively manufactures its own rocket and satellite products, or hires subcontractors to outsource the work.
Neither of the companies disclosed the merger before the FCC filing.
The news comes after it was revealed that SpaceX is reportedly planning on launching billboards and advertising material in space.