Max Polyakov, an ultra-wealthy entrepreneur with ambitions of building a space transportation empire, has acquired South African satellite maker Dragonfly Aerospace.
The deal gives Polyakov an anchorpoint in the booming but fiercely competitive market for small-satellite technology, and a potential revenue source for rocket maker Firefly Aerospace, which is majority-owned by Polyakov’s Noosphere Ventures investment fund.
Max declined to disclose the value of the deal, which closed earlier this month.
The acquisition comes amid a frenzy of capital infusions and blank-check deal-making around a new breed of firms building miniaturized launch systems to cash in on the exponential growth of compact satellites needing a ride to orbit in the coming years.
Texas-based Firefly is seeking to raise up to $350 million in multiple tranches over 12 months as part of a plan to expand production and bring to market its higher-capacity Beta rocket, two people familiar with the matter said.
Polyakov hopes Dragonfly’s satellites could launch on Firefly’s Alpha rocket, which Polyakov said could potentially debut before the end of June.
Firefly, U.S.-New Zealand startup Rocket Lab and billionaire British entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit are front-runners in a long list of small-launch providers seeking to cash in on the small satellite trend.
The boom is fueled in part by venture cash and technology leaps that have reduced the size and boosted the capabilities of satellites used for everything from communications to national security to climate studies.
The sprawling field of small-satellite makers includes SpaceX’s Starlink, Amazon.com’s Kuiper, Britain’s OneWeb, venture-backed Planet, and Raytheon Technologies Corp’s Blue Canyon Technologies.
Among them, Polyakov’s Dragonfly aims to build up to 48 satellites per year for commercial and civil space customers.