Ukrainian Max Polyakov has acquired South African NewSpace company Dragonfly Aerospace, a company with decades of proven heritage in high-performance imaging satellites and payloads. The chairman of EOS Data Analytics, Polyakov, has had ambitions of building a space transportation empire.
According to Dragonfly Aerospace, the purchase cements Dragonfly Aerospace’s status as a critical component of the vertically integrated space ecosystem built by Dr Polyakov and Noosphere Ventures.
According to the entrepreneur, “Satellites depend on many components in the space industry value chain. Dragonfly Aerospace’s expertise in creating imaging constellations is an important step in the development of our vertically integrated space ecosystem”. Dr Polyakov further commented that “Dragonfly’s advanced technology provides high-quality images in a wide range of spectrums and resolutions that are critical for monitoring the health of our planet and enabling intelligent agriculture that protects biodiversity. This improves global food security and supports a healthy environment which ultimately benefits the lives of people on Earth.”
The acquisition gives Polyakov an anchor-point in the booming but fiercely competitive market for small-satellite technology and a potential revenue source for rocket maker Firefly Aerospace, a majority-owned Polyakov’s Noosphere Ventures investment fund. Polyakov hopes Dragonfly’s satellites could launch on Firefly’s Alpha rocket, which Polyakov said could potentially debut before the end of June. He also plans to expand Dragonfly Aerospace’s presence with new facilities in the U.S. and Europe, he said, without providing a specific time frame.
Before the Acquisition, Dragonfly Aerospace was on a mission to “create compact, high-performance imaging satellites and payloads that are designed for large imaging constellations that provide persistent views of the Earth in a wide range of spectrums enabling unprecedented business intelligence and improving the lives of people around the world.”
Speaking on the acquisition, the CEO of Dragonfly Aerospace, Bryan Dean, remarked, “I am incredibly proud today to see the company that I co-founded become an important part of Dr Polyakov’s space ecosystem”. He further commented, “When our team started developing our camera technology in 2016 and then first demonstrated it successfully on the nSight-1 satellite in 2017, I knew that satellite imaging products would prove critical in the rapidly developing nanosatellite sphere. We have applied our extensive experience in developing and flying large microsatellite imagers to create innovative products for this exciting market segment. Our strategy is to work in partnership with satellite bus providers and in time deliver microsatellite solutions as well.”
Dragonfly’s acquisition – a company that had recently transformed from Space Advisory Company (SAC) – comes amid a frenzy of capital infusions and blank-check deal-making around a new breed of firms building miniaturised launch systems to cash in on the exponential growth of compact satellites needing a ride to orbit in the coming years.
Firefly, U.S.-New Zealand startup Rocket Lab and billionaire British entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit are front-runners in a long list of small-launch providers seeking cash in a slight satellite trend. The boom is fueled in part by venture cash and technology leaps that have reduced the size and boosted satellites’ capabilities for everything from communications to national security to climate studies.
The sprawling field of small-satellite makers includes SpaceX’s Starlink, Amazon.com’s (AMZN.O) Kuiper, Britain’s OneWeb, venture-backed Planet, and Raytheon Technologies Corp’s (RTX.N) Blue Canyon Technologies. Among them, Polyakov’s Dragonfly aims to build up to 48 satellites per year for commercial and civil space customers.