A Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Transporter 1 mission in January 2021.
SpaceX is acquiring satellite data startup Swarm Technologies in a rare deal from Elon Musk’s space company that adds to the team – and possibly the technological capabilities – of its growing Starlink Internet service.
Swarm, which has 120 of its tiny SpaceBEE satellites in orbit, reached a merger agreement with SpaceX on July 16, according to a August 6 filing with the Federal Communications Commission.
The company will “become a direct wholly-owned subsidiary of SpaceX upon completion of the proposed transaction,” Swarm wrote in the filing.
Terms and financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. SpaceX and Swarm did not respond to CNBC’s requests for comment. According to Pitchbook, Swarm last completed a fundraising round valued at $ 85 million in January 2019.
The deal represents an unusual acquisition for SpaceX, which tends to develop and build systems in-house. However, approving FCC licenses can be difficult and time-consuming, and the application says Swarm will transfer control of its satellite and ground station licenses to SpaceX as part of the deal.
“Swarm’s services will benefit from the better capitalization and access to resources available to SpaceX and the synergies associated with being acquired by a satellite design, manufacture and launch services provider,” it says in the submission.
The company noted that the acquisition will benefit SpaceX by providing “access to the intellectual property and expertise of the Swarm team”.
Starlink is SpaceX’s capital-intensive project to build an interconnected Internet network of thousands of satellites – known in the aerospace industry as a Constellation – designed to deliver high-speed Internet to consumers around the world. How SpaceX might use Swarm technology is unclear, as Starlink satellites work differently than the SpaceBEEs.
Swarm’s IoT technology
Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Mountain View, California, Swarm has built a constellation of 150 satellites. Its SpaceBEEs are “the smallest commercially operational satellites in space,” says the company – at 11 by 11 by 2.8 centimeters, the satellites are about the size of a small notebook.
Swarm’s satellites communicate with their antennas on the ground, using a Swarm “tile” that can be embedded in a circuit board to connect Internet of Things (IoT) devices to a global communications network. A Swarm Tile is $ 119 and the larger standalone Eval Kit is $ 499, with the company charging a $ 5 monthly subscription fee to use the network.
The company provides services for a wide variety of IoT applications, including agriculture, maritime, energy, environmental, and transportation.
Swarm came under FCC control in 2018 after the unauthorized launch of its first four SpaceBEE satellites. The FCC ended its investigation with Swarm agreeing to pay a fine of $ 900,000 and put in place a five-year compliance plan.
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