Aerospace giant Boeing Co. said Thursday it will acquire Millennium Space Systems of El Segundo, a maker of small satellites, in the latest indication that tiny spacecraft are upending the industry.
Boeing is already well known for its work in assembling school bus-sized satellites in its El Segundo facility. Once the deal closes, which is expected by the third quarter, Millennium Space Systems will become a Boeing subsidiary and will report to the general manager of the company’s Phantom Works research division.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Millennium Space Systems’ expertise in small-satellite development “perfectly complements Boeing’s existing satellite portfolio and will allow us to meet the needs of a diverse customer set,” Leanne Caret, chief executive of Boeing’s defense, space and security sector, said in a statement Thursday.
Millennium Space Systems was founded in 2001 and develops satellites that weigh as little as 110 pounds or as much as 13,000 pounds. Most of its work has been for national security customers.
Small satellites, which are cheaper to make and launch, are increasingly being used for commercial purposes, such as capturing Earth imagery and providing broadband internet. Earth imaging firm Planet Labs Inc. of San Francisco can crank out and test 25 satellites the size of a loaf of bread in one week.
But the U.S. military is also starting to evaluate the small spacecraft. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has launched a new challenge that would reward commercial companies that can launch at a moment’s notice smaller rockets that give tiny satellites a dedicated ride to space.
In August 2017, SpaceX launched a dorm fridge-sized satellite called Kestrel Eye for the U.S. Army that is designed to provide real-time imaging information to troops on the ground.