Phoenix scoop
Honeybee Robotics has provided components for several NASA missions, such as the sampling system on Phoenix Mars lander's robotic arm. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

WASHINGTON — Blue Origin is buying Honeybee Robotics, a company that develops robotic systems for space and other extreme environments.

Honeybee Robotics announced Jan. 25 that its parent company, Ensign-Bickford Industries, was selling it to Blue Origin. Terms of the deal, expected to close in mid-February, were not disclosed.

Honeybee Robotics is best known in the space industry for developing robotics systems, notably drills and other mechanisms, for use on space missions. That has included drills and sample collection systems flown on several Mars missions as well as others under development for missions to the moon and NASA’s Dragonfly mission to Saturn’s moon Titan.

“Joining Blue Origin is a major step forward for us,” said Kiel Davis, president of Honeybee Robotics, in a statement. “With Blue Origin we look forward to further expanding our capacity to meet the most exciting challenges in next-generation space transportation, space mobility, space destinations, and planetary science and exploration.”

“We’re beyond excited to welcome Honeybee Robotics to our team,” Brent Sherwood, senior vice president of advanced development programs at Blue Origin, said in the statement. “We value the company’s brand, talent, unique expertise, and product lines. And we know that together we will make bold things possible.”

Honeybee was founded in New York City in 1983 and started working on NASA projects in 1986. The company now has locations in Colorado and Southern California and, in addition to space, works in terrestrial mining and energy markets as well as defense and other industrial applications. Ensign-Bickford acquired Honeybee in 2017 and, in 2019, combined it with Avior Controls, a manufacturer of space-rated mechanisms.

Blue Origin said it will retain Honeybee as a separate entity and with “no notable changes” to its products or customers. It did not disclose its long-term plans for the company or its technologies, although Blue Origin and its founder, Jeff Bezos, have long discussed using space resources to enable the expansion of humanity into space.

“Over time, the combined capabilities of Honeybee and Blue Origin will create new opportunities, efficiencies, and innovations as they work together to develop space to benefit Earth,” the companies said.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...