Spaceflight Industries completes rideshare divestiture

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WASHINGTON —  Spaceflight Industries has completed the sale of its satellite rideshare business, Spaceflight Inc., to a pair of Japanese companies following a U.S. regulatory review and the modification of an Intelsat loan. 

Spaceflight Industries said the sale to Mitsui & Co., in partnership with Yamasa Co., closed June 12, roughly four months after it was announced. The Spaceflight Inc. rideshare business will remain in Seattle, with Curt Blake continuing as president and chief executive. Mitsui and Yamasa own the business as a 50/50 joint venture. 

“Joining the high-growth Mitsui & Co. portfolio positions Spaceflight [Inc.] to deliver and expand on the comprehensive launch services we offer,” Blake said in a June 12 news release. “We’re exploring the development of new standardized deployment systems, new digital initiatives, and other programs that further help our customers reliably and affordably access space, in the most flexible way possible.”

Spaceflight Inc.’s acquisition was unable to close until Intelsat’s bankruptcy court approved a loan amendment allowing Spaceflight Industries to retain excess cash proceeds from the sale. Intelsat loaned $50 million in October to BlackSky, a remote-sensing operator owned by Spaceflight Industries, linking the two companies. 

When Intelsat filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May, it triggered the need for bankruptcy court approval of the loan amendment, which the court granted June 10. Intelsat also released Mitsui from an intercreditor agreement where each company used part of Spaceflight Industries as loan collateral (Mitsui loaned Spaceflight Industries $26 million in October). 

The Mitsui acquisition passed a national security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) on April 22, another prerequisite for the sale to close. 

Spaceflight Industries retains ownership of BlackSky, and plans to invest funds from the sale of its rideshare business into BlackSky, Brian O’Toole, president of Spaceflight Industries and CEO of BlackSky, said in a June 12 news release. 

BlackSky has four satellites in orbit, and eight more planned for launch this year — two on a SpaceX Starlink launch later this month, four on an Indian Small Satellite Launch Vehicle later this year, and two with a to-be-announced launch provider.