BlackSky Holdings, which is operating a growing fleet of Earth observation satellites as well as a cloud-based platform to analyze geospatial data, says it will become a publicly traded company through a blank-check merger valued at nearly $1.5 billion.
The agreement with Osprey Technology Acquisition Corp. would result in BlackSky being listed on the NYSE with the ticker symbol “BKSY” in July.
It’s the latest chapter for a company that traces its roots to Seattle — and still has roughly half of its 135-employee workforce here. The other half of the operation is based in Herndon, Va.
The merger could produce as much as $450 million in net proceeds for the combined company, which would be used to extend BlackSky’s Spectra data analytics platform, expand BlackSky’s Global satellite constellation, add to the company’s array of data feeds and boost its marketing efforts.
BlackSky says its pipeline of business opportunities has grown by $1.1 billion in the past 12 months and stands at $1.7 billion today. Many of those opportunities involve contracts with government agencies in the U.S. and around the world.
“This transaction fully funds our growth plans and accelerates our vision of providing our customers with a ‘first-to-know’ advantage,” BlackSky CEO Brian O’Toole said today in a news release announcing the deal. “This is an important inflection point for our industry as commercial and government users demand access to real-time information about the changes that matter most to them.”
Until a year ago, BlackSky was considered one of two subsidiaries of Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries. The other subsidiary, Spaceflight Inc., concentrated on launch logistics for small satellites.
Then Spaceflight Inc. was acquired by Japan’s Mitsui & Co., working in partnership with Yamasa Co. Ltd. Spaceflight Inc. operates independently with its headquarters in Seattle, while BlackSky has inherited Spaceflight Industries’ other assets.
Black Sky currently has five satellites in low Earth orbit, gathering real-time multispectral observations that feed into the Spectra geospatial data platform. Nine more satellites are due to be added to the Global constellation this year.
Eventually, BlackSky aims to establish a constellation of 30 satellites capable of monitoring locations on Earth at high resolution every 30 minutes, day or night.
In 2019, the National Reconnaissance Office awarded study contracts to BlackSky as well as Maxar Technologies and Planet to assess the use of commercial space imagery for intelligence purposes. And last July, the U.S. Air Force gave BlackSky a contract to use its Spectra platform to monitor the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on military facilities worldwide.
In addition to operating Spectra and the Global constellation, BlackSky is a 50-50 partner with Thales Alenia Space in a satellite manufacturing joint venture called LeoStella, which has its factory in Tukwila, Wash.
The merger with Osprey is part of a trend toward using blank-check companies — also known as special-purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs — to speed the process of turning a privately held company into a publicly traded company. Other examples of space-related SPAC deals include Virgin Galactic and Astra.
Osprey holds about $318 million in trust, and another $180 million for the deal will come from an arrangement for private investment in public equity, or PIPE. Among the participating investors are Tiger Global Management, Mithril Capital (co-founded by Peter Thiel and Ajay Royan), Hedosophia and Senator Investment Group. (Hedosophia also played a role in the Virgin Galactic SPAC deal.)
“We are delighted to partner with BlackSky, a first mover in a large and exciting new market,” said David DiDomenico, a partner of JANA Partners LLC who also serves as Osprey’s CEO. “The new space economy is taking off, and we believe that BlackSky’s low-cost image capture and on-demand delivery of analytics will revolutionize the way companies and governments detect and track change.”
At a share price of $10, the combined company will have a pro forma equity value of $1.477 billion, and a pro forma enterprise value to market of $1.1 billion, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The deal has been approved by the boards of BlackSky and Osprey but is still subject to customary closing conditions, including the approval of Osprey’s shareholders.
News – BlackSky satellite data venture makes a $1.5B deal to go public in SPAC merger