Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries announced Tuesday an agreement to sell its satellite rideshare-launch business, Spaceflight Inc., to Japanese companies Mitsui & Co. and Yamasa Corp.
The business will continue as an independent U.S.-based company under Japanese ownership. Spaceflight Inc. headquarters will remain in Seattle, with Curt Blake continuing to serve as the CEO and president, reporting to a newly formed board of directors, a majority of whom will be U.S.-based.
The financial terms were not disclosed. The transaction will have to be reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., a process that’s expected to take several months.
Spaceflight Industries said the sale will allow further investment and expansion of the commercial and government rideshare launch services by its new owners, while the local company will leverage the capital from the deal to focus on the accelerated growth of BlackSky.
The satellite rideshare business acts as a broker, offering launch services for small satellite makers on a variety of American, European and Indian launch rockets, from the small rockets built by Vector Launch to the giant Falcon Heavy built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Mitsui and Yamasa will each take a 50% ownership stake in Spaceflight Inc. Mitsui is a sprawling conglomerate with holdings in metals, machinery and infrastructure, chemicals, energy, consumer items and corporate development. Yamasa manufactures soy sauce products and pharmaceuticals.
Tomohiro Musha, Mitsui’s general manager of aerospace systems, said the acquisition “is an optimal way for Mitsui & Co. to enter the space industry.”
Spaceflight Inc. CEO Blake said the deal “provides an opportunity to be a part of a high-growth international portfolio” with enhanced opportunity for investment in the business.
Brian O’Toole, president of Spaceflight Industries and CEO of BlackSky, said the agreement will leave both businesses “poised for a new phase of rapid growth.”
“This acquisition is a significant step in driving our strategy forward,” O’Toole said. “BlackSky will continue to partner with Spaceflight’s ridesharing and launch service experts to meet our aggressive launch schedule.”
BlackSky has four Earth observation satellites currently on orbit, with another eight planned to launch this year, including four on a dedicated mission brokered by Spaceflight Inc. on an Indian launch rocket.
BlackSky is also developing a web-based “geospatial intelligence” platform that synthesizes data from sources including social media, news outlets and radio communications and integrates this information with the satellite imagery.