WASHINGTON — Voyager Space has acquired engineering company ZIN Technologies to help build up expertise needed for its Starlab commercial space station.
Voyager announced March 13 it acquired Cleveland-based ZIN Technologies for an undisclosed sum. ZIN is known for microgravity research equipment it has flown on the Space Shuttle, International Space station and other platforms, as well as other spaceflight hardware.
“They’re very experienced, especially in the space station realm,” said Matthew Kuta, president and chief operating officer of Voyager, in an interview. That includes more than 50% of the research hardware on the station as well as safety and health monitoring equipment. “There’s really no other company in the world that has the same space station heritage and credibility.”
That experience, he said, will translate well to Voyager’s plans for the Starlab commercial space station. Voyager is one of three companies that received NASA awards in late 2021 to begin design work on commercial space stations that the agency hopes to have ready by late this decade to allow it to transition from the ISS.
Buying the company, he said, allows Voyager to bring ZIN’s expertise within the company rather simply working with them as a supplier. “We were working with them anyways on Starlab,” he said. “It’s a way for us to de-risk our supply chain because we brought that in-house.”
In the press release announcing the acquisition, Voyager the deal the largest it has done since 2020. Kuta clarified that referred to the size of the company, as ZIN has about 250 to 300 employees.
Work on Starlab is proceeding well, he said. Voyager announced in January that it signed a new partnership with Airbus Defence and Space to provide technical expertise for Starlab. Airbus supplanted Lockheed Martin as the main partner with Voyager on the project.
“They are our base partner,” he said of Airbus, but added that there would still be a role for Lockheed in the project as supplier. “The core two partners are Voyager and Airbus.”
He said Voyager saw significant demand for Starlab from NASA as well as current Western ISS partners. “The business case is not something we’re too concerned about,” he said.
Voyager Space has built itself up through a series of acquisitions starting in late 2019 that included Altius Space Machines, Nanoracks, Pioneer Astronautics, Space Micro, The Launch Company and Valley Tech Systems. Space Micro was Voyager’s most recent acquisition before ZIN, in November 2022.
Kuta said Voyager would consider additional acquisitions to enhance its capabilities needed for Starlab. “What we’re really focused on here is seeing what is the most efficient and expeditious way to get from where we’re at to Starlab in orbit,” which would be a mix of internal development and subcontracting.
“There are a few companies that might make sense for us to acquire,” he said, adding that any such acquisitions would not likely take place before the second half of the year.