Bishop Nanoracks screen installed on the International Space Station.
The fourth acquisition of Voyager Space Holdings in just over a year since its inception is a majority stake in the parent company of Nanoracks, a space services and hardware specialist that has sent more than 1,000 missions to the International Space Station.
“Nanoracks are a game changer for us in terms of adding quite significant capabilities in space,” Voyager Space Holdings CEO Dylan Taylor told CNBC.
Voyager intends to take a majority stake in XO Markets, the holding company Nanoracks, in an agreement that is expected to be concluded in the first quarter of 2021.
While Voyager Space Holdings did not disclose the financial details of the transaction – Taylor noting that “we put enough money into the business” to help it grow – people familiar with the transaction told CNBC that Voyager intends to invest more than $ 50 million. dollars in the Nanoracks next year.
The majority stake in XO Markets marks Voyager’s fourth agreement since its inception in October 2019. The company previously acquired missile and spacecraft specialist The Launch Company, a satellite service company Altius Space Machines, and Pioneer Astronautics, a research firm. and the development of Dr. Robert Zubrin, best known for his discussions with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk about establishing a permanent human presence on Mars.
“We’re a company that operates and not a fund, so that’s how we build capacity,” Taylor said. “Once we have assembled all this capacity, we can have a huge influence on the industry, because we are able to do really complex and meaningful missions in space.”
Nanoracks CEO Jeff Manber said he began looking for new capital last summer, including examining the stock on his own through a special-purpose procurement company or SPAC. But Manber told CNBC he did not want to “spend the next two years” talking to Wall Street investors and “trying to figure out how to resist,” rather than staying focused on running and developing his business.
“With Voyager, we have a platform that allows us to grow into the full development of our space services infrastructure, with financial sophistication and synergy that we honestly wouldn’t have on our own,” Manber said. “It gives us stability. It gives us the platform. It gives us some of the expertise we don’t have today.”
Instead, Manber sees Nanoracks “providing the core” of Voyager’s space efforts, with new access to the company’s mission control room in Houston, Texas, as well as nationwide facilities and talent who have experience working a variety of tasks. useful that went into space.
Nanoracks: “Space Station Boys”
The Bishop air block built in Nanoracks is installed via the Canadarm2 robot on the International Space Station.
The deal also comes after Nanoracks set significant milestones in the installation of Bishop Airlock on Saturday on the International Space Station. Nanoracks fully funded the development and manufacture of the airlock device, launching it to the ISS on a SpaceX cargo mission on December 6.
The first private air locking device, Bishop adds five times the payload capacity as the current government-run JEM device. NASA noted that the addition of Bishop “significantly increases the capacity of public and private research,” which “also allows the deployment of larger satellites and the transfer of space tools and hardware inside and outside the station.”
“Nanoracks is the largest commercial user of the International Space Station,” Manber said. “We are the guys at the space stations – we understand the space stations better than probably any emerging commercial company in the world.”
Nanoracks has approximately 70 employees worldwide, based in Houston. The company also has offices in Washington, DC, as well as offices in Turin, Italy and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
Manber sees the rise of Nanoracks in a three-pillar strategy, the first of which is its current use of the ISS.
“The Bishop air block is the biggest catalyst for our growth in the future,” Manber said.
But “the space station is getting older,” Manber said, so he wants the Nanoracks to be involved in the “market-focused private space stations” that go on. He expects “small private space stations”, each focused on individual markets, to be launched in the next decade, with “some hotels and others for professional astronauts”. So, the “second pillar” of the Nanoracks is its Outpost program, which intends to restore the large discarded rocket fuel tanks that are orbiting the Earth in small space stations.
Nanoracks’ first Outpost technology demonstration, called the Mars Demo-1, is scheduled to fly with the launch of the SpaceX rideshare in June 2021. The mission will use a robotic arm to cut metal into space to demonstrate that Nanoracks can cut fuel tanks for Secure missiles, key to transforming them into orbiting hubs. Manber hopes that Nanoracks will then launch a follow-up mission in 2023 and then “every year it stays in space more and more and transforming these otherwise empty platforms.”
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launches the transport of the Es’hail-2 communications satellite to Qatar on November 15, 2018 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NurPhoto | NurPhoto | Getty Images
“The third pillar is to become a client of space research,” Manber said. “Space research is a market that has been totally dominated by the government, funded by space agencies with the occasional involvement of a commercial company such as a pharmaceutical company or [agricultural] technology company. “
Nanoracks’ space research service would help more companies “use the harsh environment of space to create new products.”
Manber described his three-pillar strategy as “emulating what SpaceX is doing,” taking a core business and then constantly building on it.
“This industry is getting very serious now and it’s a commercially important industry, ‘Manber.’ Even more [Nanoracks] I talked to a number of family funds and hedge funds, the more I looked at it and realized how the industry is going. “
Joining Voyager is Manber’s way of “aligning” the Nanoracks so that they don’t have a single project or program they depend on for success.
Voyager aims to make an IPO at the end of 2021
Rocket 3.2 is on the launch pad in Kodiak, Alaska.
Astra / John Kraus
Taylor said a downside to building an operating company is that “you really can’t make more than four offers a year efficiently or productively,” because Voyager doesn’t create “a portfolio of brands,” but rather works. to integrate them as a whole cohesive system. However, Taylor said Voyager has about a dozen acquisitions “in progress at various stages of due diligence” and expects to announce two or three more by the summer of 2021.
“And then it’s still our desire … to try to go out in public at the end of next year,” Taylor said.
He intends to make Voyager public on the traditional IPO route, saying he believes “there is value in going through the S-1 process”.
Meanwhile, Voyager is looking to add companies that build components for spacecraft, as well as software specialists – also known as CNG or guidance, navigation and control. Taylor says Voyager will “finally examine a launch capability,” a rocket maker like SpaceX or Rocket Lab, but does not expect that to happen next year.
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