M&A

Boeing furthers small sat push with acquisition

Boeing has become the latest defense company to ramp up investments in the small satellite market through its acquisition of manufacturer Millennium Space Systems.

Terms of the transaction were undisclosed and the deal is anticipated to close by the end of the calendar year’s third quarter, Boeing said Thursday. Millennium Space Systems will become a Boeing subsidiary with the current business model and report to Mark Cherry, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s classified platform development arm Phantom Works.

Founded in 2001, Millennium Space Systems has 260 employees -- many of them aerospace and systems engineers -- and builds satellites primarily for national security missions at weights anywhere between approximately 110 and 13,000 pounds.

The El Segundo, California-based company’s main government customer is the Air Force and previous contracts have come from NASA.

Small satellites are viewed as a faster and cheaper alternative to their larger counterparts as government customers seek more efficient access to space. Boeing envisions Millennium Space Systems’ portfolio as complementary to Boeing’s existing satellite lineup and a gateway to meeting diverse customer requirements, Boeing’s defense segment CEO Leanne Caret said in a release.

Like many of its large aerospace competitors including Lockheed Martin, Boeing has been an active investor in recent years with respect to emerging technologies like small satellites, autonomous systems and others that are becoming of increased interest by government customers.

Those investments have included tuck-in buys. Boeing acquired electric-powered unmanned vehicle maker Aurora Flight Sciences in November as part of that push. That deal came almost two years after Boeing purchased unmanned sea vehicle company Liquid Robotics, which was preceded in 2008 by the acquisition of aerial drone company Insitu.

Lockheed announced earlier this month it would increase its venture capital arm’s investment in small satellite company Terran Orbital. The Lockheed Martin Ventures arm also is being doubled to $200 million as part of the global defense company’s larger effort to identify early-stage companies with technologies it views as disruptive.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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