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Spire Global joins rush to public markets with $1.6 billion SPAC deal

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TAMPA, Florida — Satellite operator Spire Global has unveiled the space-powered Big Data market’s second SPAC deal in just over a week, as the rush to public markets accelerates across commercial space sectors.

Spire’s merger with special-purpose acquisition company NavSight values the company at $1.6 billion. The deal gives Spire about $475 million in cash to accelerate data-gathering and analysis operations across maritime, aviation, weather, climate and other markets.

The cash injection includes $245 million from a group led by investors Tiger Global Management, BlackRock Advisors, Hedosophia, Jaws Estates Capital and Bloom Tree Partners. NavSight listed on the New York Stock Exchange in September in a $200 million deal under ticker symbol NSH.

Spire plans to list on the same exchange under ticker SPIR this summer after shareholder and regulatory approvals – faster than a traditional route to becoming public that can take anywhere from six to 18 months.

The company has been considering a public listing for a year and a half, CEO and founder Peter Platzer told SpaceNews.

Spire spoke with “a substantial number of SPACs” during that time, Platzer said, before hitting it off with NavSight CEO Bob Coleman and CFO Jack Pearlstein in November.

“This partnership will allow us to accelerate our market capture by investing in sales, marketing, and product development, and taking full advantage of the deep experience and relationships Bob and Jack bring to the table,” he said.

In addition to their experience as public company executives, Platzer said Coleman and Pearlstein bring strong connections in the government market, an important customer group for Spire.

Coleman, who has a history of founding and leading solutions providers for the intelligence community and Department of Defense, is an advisory board member for the National Defense Industrial Association. 

Pearlstein has more than 25 years of operating experience in the technology sector and, until June 2020, was CFO of public relations software company Cision.

Untapped potential

Surging popularity for SPAC deals in the investment community is creating a gold rush for commercial space companies, which tend to have sizable capital expenditure needs. 

Unlike some that have jumped on the SPAC bandwagon, however, decade-old Spire generates revenues with a constellation of more than 100 satellites that it builds in-house.

It recorded about $36 million in unaudited recurring revenues in 2020, according to a Spire investor presentation, and expects to nearly double that this year. It also posted an $18 million gross profit last year (non-GAAP), expecting that to climb to $830 million in 2025 on nearly $1.2 billion in recurring revenues.

Since 2012, Spire has secured around $180 million in capital from investors that include Bessemer Venture Partners, RRE Ventures, Scottish Investment Bank, Seraphim Capital and Lemnos. It now employs about 250 people, including around 140 engineers and scientists.

Platzer said the transaction enables it to pursue a more aggressive timetable for its “space-as-a-service” growth model, where customers operate their own payloads and use their own software for accessing the data collected by its Lemur satellites.

A healthy trend?

BlackSky, which provides Big Data analysis with a network of imagery and geospatial intelligence satellites, announced a SPAC deal Feb. 18 that values it at around $1.5 billion.

Rocket Lab, which has launched some of Spire’s spacecraft, announced its own SPAC-fueled plans March 1 to go public. The group will use proceeds to develop a larger launch vehicle called Neutron, which will help serve growing demand for satellite constellations such as Spire.

Other space ventures that have recently announced SPAC plans to, since Richard Branson helped open the flood gates with tourism venture Virgin Galactic in 2019, include rocket-maker Astra, satellite-to-device specialist AST & Science and space transportation venture Momentus.

Analysts expect many more SPAC deals to come for an industry that has long pined for sizable exits, which are key for newspace to continue attracting capital across the value chain. 

However, the frenzy of activity also raises concerns about a potential bubble in the space community.

The trend marks an inflection point for the newspace ecosystem, according to David Cowan, a partner of Bessemer Venture Partners that currently owns about 6.5% of Spire.

“We now have public companies showing strong financial performance as they deploy microsat constellations,” Cowan told SpaceNews

“Not only [do SPACs] unlock public pools of capital, but we should now expect a huge uptick in venture capital investment behind the next-generation of space startups.”

Spire is the second newspace company in VC firm Seraphim Capital’s portfolio to announce a SPAC, following AST & Science late last year.

Seraphim Capital CEO Mark Boggett characterized the SPAC trend as a point of maturation for newspace, enabling these companies to build scale largely debt-free.

“The newspace industry really lends itself to the SPAC proposition given the giant addressable markets for these companies,” Boggett said.

“The first movers and the emerging category leaders can accelerate their vision whilst fully funding their growth plans through a single efficient transaction … It’s great to see the SPAC focus broadening beyond the launch category and I expect we’ll see a sharp increase in further newspace SPAC announcements as we progress through 2021.”

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Source: https://spacenews.com/spire-global-joins-rush-to-public-markets-with-1-6-billion-spac-deal/

Aerospace

Virgin Galactic unveils new spaceship for its growing fleet

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Virgin Galactic has unveiled the company’s first SpaceShip III in its growing fleet, VSS Imagine.

The spaceship showcases Virgin Galactic’s innovation in design and astronaut experience. Imagine also demonstrates progress toward efficient design and production, as Virgin Galactic works to scale the business for the long-term.

VSS Imagine will commence ground testing, with glide flights planned for this summer from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

The livery design, finished entirely with a mirror-like material, reflects the surrounding environment, constantly changing colour and appearance as it travels from earth to sky to space.

Leveraging a modular design, the SpaceShip III class of vehicles are built to enable improved performance in terms of maintenance access and flight rate. This third generation of spaceship will lay the foundation for the design and manufacture of future vehicles.

As VSS Imagine begins ground testing, manufacturing will progress on VSS Inspire, the second SpaceShip III vehicle within the Virgin Galactic fleet. The introduction of the SpaceShip III class of vehicles is an important milestone in Virgin Galactic’s multi-year effort that targets flying 400 flights per year, per spaceport.

VSS Imagine is unveiled ahead of VSS Unity’s next test flight, which is planned for May 2021.

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, commented: “Today we unveiled our SpaceShip III class of vehicles, marking the beginning of the Virgin Galactic fleet. VSS Imagine and Inspire are stunning ships that will take our future astronauts on an incredible voyage to space, and their names reflect the aspirational nature of human spaceflight. Congratulations to our dedicated team who worked so brilliantly to achieve this milestone.”

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, added: “Virgin Galactic spaceships are built specifically to deliver a new, transforming perspective to the thousands of people who will soon be able to experience the wonder of space for themselves. As a SpaceShip III class of vehicle, Imagine is not just beautiful to look at, but represents Virgin Galactic’s growing fleet of spaceships. All great achievements, creations and changes start with an idea. Our hope is for all those who travel to space to return with fresh perspectives and new ideas that will bring positive change to our planet.”

www.virgingalactic.com

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Source: https://www.aero-mag.com/virgin-galactic-unveils-new-spaceship-for-its-growing-fleet/

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Hexcel joins ASCEND project

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Hexcel joins ASCEND project

Hexcel has announced its role within the recently launched UK-based project called ASCEND (Aerospace and Automotive Supply Chain Enabled Development) that will focus on developing high-rate manufacturing and processing technologies that will accelerate the development of new, lightweight advanced composite materials.

The composites company will join lead partner GKN Aerospace and 13 other project stakeholders in a collaboration across the UK supply chain to develop the technologies and automation equipment required to manufacture lightweight, more fuel-efficient structures for sustainable air mobility, aerospace, and automotive industries.

Hexcel will contribute to the ASCEND project framework, developing a new HexPly fast cure prepreg system that will significantly reduce component processing times compared to existing aerospace prepregs.

In addition to its new fast curing prepreg technology, Hexcel’s range of Liquid Composite Moulding (LCM) products will be incorporated into the ASCEND project work packages. The project will use both HiTape advanced unidirectional dry carbon reinforcements and HiMax multiaxial non-crimp fabrics reinforcements.

The ASCEND project will allow Hexcel to collaborate with Tier 1 companies, engineers, tooling specialists, and production equipment OEMs to deliver both prepreg and liquid composite moulding solutions that meet both the performance targets and satisfy the processing requirements for high-rate automated manufacture.

The technical integration enabled by the ASCEND project partnerships will ensure a complete understanding of customer performance and processing needs, coupled with the opportunity to industrialize new technologies utilizing the extensive capabilities of GKN’s Global Technology Centre in Bristol.

Paul Mackenzie, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Hexcel, said “We are  proud to be part of the ASCEND program, and we look forward to working with other leading companies as we develop processes and materials that help to make the next generation of sustainable air mobility, aerospace, and automotive vehicles possible. This project offers the perfect platform for Hexcel to collaborate and further develop our HexPly, HiMax, and HiTape technologies.”

The ASCEND partners working alongside Hexcel include Assyst Bulmer, Airborne, Cobham Mission Systems Wimborne, Cygnet Texkimp, DES Composites, FAR-UK, Hive Composites, LMAT, Loop Technology, McLaren Automotive, The National Composites Centre, Solvay Composite Technologies, Rafinex, and Sigmatex (UK).

Together, the group looks forward to delivering the material and automation innovations that will power more sustainable mobility solutions of the future.

www.hexcel.com

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Source: https://www.aero-mag.com/hexcel-joins-ascend-project/

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Boeing Commercial Airplanes extends landing gear kits contract with Magellan

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Boeing Commercial Airplanes division has extended its component supply contract with Canada-based supplier Magellan Aerospace.

Under this long-term contract, Magellan will continue to supply landing gear kits and structural components for Boeing platforms such as the 737, 767, and 777.

The contract extension also shows that Magellan meets Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ cost, quality and performance requirements.

Magellan business development, marketing and contract vice-president Haydn Martin said: “Securing this major business extension for key Boeing platforms is foundational for our New York and Kitchener facilities as the aerospace industry works to recover from the impact of the global pandemic.

“The confidence that Boeing has placed in Magellan is significant and demonstrates our ability to offer our customers comprehensive and reliable solutions.”

For Boeing, the company is using a vertical integration strategy that leverages global resources in Ontario, New York City, and India.

It has also made significant investments across all its facilities regarding manufacturing technology and the workforce to enhance its competitiveness worldwide.

Magellan will deliver these kits and hardware from its facilities in Kitchener, Ontario and New York City, New York. The company will also produce an extra supply of kits to reduce production risk.

Deliveries will be made directly to Boeing’s assembly facilities in Renton and Everett, Washington, US.

Last month, Magellan signed a five-year renewal agreement with Avio Aero to supply magnesium and aluminium castings.

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Source: https://www.aerospace-technology.com/news/boeing-commercial-aircraft-magellan/

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ZeroAvia raises new funding for hydrogen-electric engine development

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Zero-emission aviation firm ZeroAvia has raised $24.3m in new funding to support the development of a 2MW hydrogen-electric engine.

Hong Kong-based venture capital firm Horizons Ventures, an existing investor, led the latest funding round and was joined by new investor British Airways.

Other investors, including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Summa Equity, Shell Ventures, and SYSTEMIQ, also joined the financing.

The financing takes the company’s total private investment to more than $53m while the total funding raised is close to $74m since its formation.

ZeroAvia’s funding comes a few months after the UK Government, through the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), and Innovate UK, announced a $16.3m (£12.3m) grant to deliver a 19-seat hydrogen-electric powered aircraft in the market by 2023.

The new funding will accelerate the hydrogen-electric powertrain development for a ten to 20-seater regional aircraft.

ZeroAvia aims to commercialise the engine as early as 2024. The company aims to enter the more than 50-seater commercial aircraft segment by 2026.

The funding will also de-risk the company ambition to power a 100-seat single-aisle aircraft by 2030.

ZeroAvia CEO and founder Val Miftakhov said: “This new funding, in conjunction with our other recent milestones, will significantly accelerate our path to zero-emission solutions for larger regional aircraft at a commercial scale.

“With many airlines lining up and ready to make the shift to zero-emissions, we expect to see wide-scale adoption of this technology.”

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Source: https://www.aerospace-technology.com/news/zeroavia-electric-raising-funds/

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