American Pacific Corp. is made a multimillion dollar investment to become a minority shareholder for Frontier Aerospace, a Simi Valley, California, startup. Credit: Frontier Aerospace

SAN FRANCISCO – AE Industrial Partners subsidiary American Pacific Corp. announced a multimillion-dollar investment in Frontier Aerospace, a space propulsion startup based in Simi Valley, California. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Private equity firm AE Industrial Partners has become well known in the space industry since last year when it founded Redwire, a space structures firm growing rapidly through acquisitions that plans to become a publicly traded company through a merger with a special-purpose acquisition corporation.

In 2020 AE Industrial Partners acquired American Pacific, a specialty materials manufacturer based in Cedar City, Utah. Frontier is American Pacific’s first investment since its acquisition.

“With our investment in Frontier, we now have a strategic partner in next-generation, in-space liquid propulsion technology,” American Pacific CEO Hal Murdock said in a statement. “Jim and the Frontier team bring a strong space heritage and have a solid reputation for innovation, and we are proud to work together to better serve our launch industry customers.”

Frontier is unusual for a space industry startup because it has not sought outside investment, fueling its growth through contracts, until now. Frontier was formed in 2014 by Jim McKinnon, a former propulsion research engineer at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. Prior to establishing Frontier Aerospace, McKinnon ran Frontier Engineering, a consulting firm he founded in 1997.

Frontier has raised its profile in the last year as it won contracts to provide propulsion systems for lunar landers being built by Astrobotic and Masten Space Systems.

“With American Pacific’s investment, we gain additional resources to take advantage of the tremendous interest in today’s space industry, combined with the added benefit of their deep defense industry expertise,” McKinnon said in a statement. “We also look forward to leveraging AEI’s relationships and intimate understanding of aerospace and defense’s unique challenges.”

With funds provided by American Pacific, which is claiming a minority stake in the business, Frontier plans to expand its staff and testing operations.

“Guidance navigation and control and in-space propulsion are critical to the national defense and space industries, and we are pleased to have American Pacific partner with a company on the cutting edge of next-generation liquid propulsion technologies,” said Kirk Konert, a Partner at AEI. “We’re excited about the possibilities that a partnership between two well-respected leaders can offer.”

Bryce Dabbs, Frontier finance and operations vice president, told SpaceNews, “This is the start of a prolonged relationship with AE Industrial Partners and American Pacific.”

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...