SpaceX to acquire satellite connectivity startup Swarm Technologies

SpaceX will be acquiring satellite connectivity startup Swarm Technologies, the first such deal for the 19-year-old space company headed by Elon Musk.

Swarm operates a constellation of 120 sandwich-sized satellites as well as a ground station network. The deal would transfer control of Swarm’s ground and space licenses to SpaceX, in addition to any licenses pending before the commission. If the transaction is approved, the startup would become a “direct wholly-owned subsidiary” of the larger company.

The acquisition, which was reported in under-the-radar filings with the Federal Communications Commission, marks a sharp departure from the launch giant’s established strategy of internally developing its tech.

The deal was reportedly reached between the two companies on July 16. The FCC filings do not disclose any financial details or terms of the transaction. Neither SpaceX nor Swarm could be reached for comment.

“Swarm’s services will benefit from the better capitalization and access to resources available to SpaceX, as well as the synergies associated with acquisition by a provider of satellite design, manufacture, and launch services,” the companies said in the filing. For SpaceX’s part, the company will “similarly benefit from access to the intellectual property and expertise developed by the Swarm team, as well as from adding this resourceful and effective team to SpaceX.”

What this means for SpaceX’s operations, particularly its Starlink satellite network, is unclear, as these satellites operate in a different frequency band from that of Swarm. In the short term, Swarm CEO Sara Spangelo told TechCrunch last month that the company is “still marching” toward its goal of operating a 150-satellite constellation.

Compared to SpaceX, Swarm is a relatively new company. It raised a $25 million Series A almost exactly three years ago, in August 2018, but it only went commercially live with its flagship product earlier this year. That product, the Tile, is a small modem that can be embedded in various connectivity devices and linked to the satellite network to allow users a low-cost way to power Internet of Things devices.

Swarm’s Evaluation Kit. Image Credits: Swarm (opens in a new window)

Swarm also launched its second product last month, the $499 Evaluation Kit, an all-in-one package designed to give anyone the ability to create an IoT device using a Tile, a solar panel and a few other components.