In an era of endless mega-mergers and acquisitions, perhaps nearly every startup’s dream is to one day become big enough to be bought out. That dream has now been fulfilled by Made In Space (MIS), the company to first install a 3D printer in the International Space Station (ISS). MIS has announced that it was purchased by a firm called Redwire.
MIS is already well-known in the additive sector for its work in 3D printing in space. In addition to the aforementioned ISS machine, the company subsequently sent up the first commercial system in space. This allowed customers to print objects on the ISS. Other projects explored by MIS include the Archinaut, a system meant for the additive construction of large-scale objects, such as satellites, in space, as well as in-space fiber optics pulling, material recycling, and metal 3D printing.
While, in many cases, corporate buyouts are performed by much more established businesses to grow their portfolios, MIS has announced that it was purchased by Redwire, a seemingly unknown new space company. Part of the reason for Redwire’s lack of name recognition is the fact that it was only formed in June 2020, the result of strategy by private equity firm AE Industrial Partners. AEI acquired two other space firms, Adcole Space and Deep Space Systems (DSS), earlier in 2020 to form Redwire. The company’s goal is to be a leader in “mission critical space solutions and high reliability components for the next generation space economy.”
In the new space industry, there is plenty of opportunity to take advantage of media and investment hype due to the fact that much of the sectors goals are on a very protracted timeline. Mining on earth has already proven to be ripe for fraud, as discovery and extracting valuable metals can take years to achieve and may never be realized, allowing the purported mining operations to cover up financial malfeasance. Mining asteroids in space is that much more abstract.
For this reason, it would pay to be skeptical of nearly any new space company. However, whereas Redwire may have come out of the blue, AEI and the companies purchased have much more established histories. AEI was founded in 1998 to expand middle market aerospace companies using its team of over 30 investment staff and resulting in the closure of 46 acquisitions.
The team is made up of numerous aerospace veterans, with Managing Partner David Rowe having served at GE Aerospace and GE Capital before becoming executive vice president at Gulfstream Financial Services Corp. and then building AEI. Other members worked at such companies as UBS, Boeing, GE and Hawker Beechcraft, with some serving as U.S. federal officials, including former acting Department of Homeland Security secretary Kevin McAleenan.
Both DSS and Adcole Space are fixtures in the space industry, with DSS involved in the development and management of space systems, including parts and spacecraft. Since its founding in 2001, DSS has created complete spacecraft, data recovery systems, fully qualified payloads and has been involved in projects related to the Space Shuttle, ISS, Orion, Dream Chaser and more. Adcole Space was founded in 1957, when it began working on satellite technology that has since been used in hundreds of low-earth orbit, geosynchronous and interplanetary spacecraft, including missions to Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto.
The purchase of MIS is meant to expand Redwire’s portfolio from space sensors and payloads, flight hardware and space craft to include MIS’s in-space manufacturing technology.
Of the acquisition, Redwire CEO Peter Cannito said, “To truly realize the full potential for space exploration, innovation must change the economics. Made In Space has been driving these innovations and is now positioned to revolutionize the industry.”
Cannito, it is worth noting, worked as an operating partner at AEI after serving as CEO of Polaris Alpha, a developer of technology for the Department of Defense and the intelligence community.
In other words, while Redwire may be new as a business entity, its team is not, and MIS is joining what may be an altogether formidable group of space experts. It will be taking along with it its sister company, Made In Space Europe, which develops space-capable robotic systems. In addition to its headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida, MIS has offices in California, Alabama and Ohio. Andrew Rush, president and chief executive officer of MIS, said that the purchase by Redwire would allow the company to grow and advance its technology.
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