Elon Muskin SpaceX acquires small satellite data provider Swarm Technologies, which gathers about 30 startup employees and its network of 120 small satellites. The contract made last month is very rare for SpaceX, which usually makes its own rocket and satellite equipment or hires subcontractors.
Swarm disclosed the acquisition plans in an application filed Aug. 6 to the Federal Communications Commission, which sought permission to transfer ownership of its satellite and antenna licenses to SpaceX. The merger agreement, in which Swarm will become a direct and wholly owned subsidiary of SpaceX, was entered into on 16 July.
The acquisition of Swarm represents a rare move for SpaceX as it deepens the world of consumer electronics and drives its way out unprofitability gap With Starlink hoping the net will eventually become a money cow to fund Musk’s massive Starship launch system. However, it is unclear what special opportunity SpaceX sees in Swarm to benefit from its broadband network. A Swarm spokesman declined to comment on the agreement, and SpaceX did not respond to the request for comment.
The acquisition strengthens “the ability of the combined companies to provide innovative satellite services that reach unserved and sub-service parts of the world,” Swarm wrote in an FCC application. “SpaceX will also benefit from the availability of intellectual property and expertise developed by the Swarm team, as well as the addition of this inventive and efficient team to SpaceX.”
Founded in 2016, Swarm offers very low-bandwidth data services using its small sandwich-sized SpaceBEE satellites that speak to smaller consumer antennas called “tiles”. Of the planned 150, 120 satellites are already in orbit, and the tiles can be installed as crack-sized chips, for example, inside the device’s circuit board. With built-in GPS, devices with a tile-mounted device can track, transmit sensor data, or perform any customer-programmed operations using small bandwidth points on Swarm’s global satellite network, starting at $ 5 per month.
SpaceX’s much-different Starlink program aims to send a broadband connection to rural areas that don’t have fiber or physical Internet connections. The company already has more than 1,700 of the original 4,409 batches of satellites in low-earth orbit and nearly 100,000 beta users, most of whom paid $ 499 for the terminal and $ 99 per month for the Internet. The network is a long way from the UK-sponsored OneWeb competition, which has so far launched 254 satellites from its similar – but smaller – broadband network and Amazon’s incoming Kuiper network, which has not yet deployed satellites.