BlackSky satellite data venture glides into first day of public trading after SPAC deal

BlackSky Global satellites
An artist’s conception shows BlackSky’s Global satellites in orbit. (BlackSky Illustration)

BlackSky, the geospatial data analysis company that got its start in Seattle, eased into its first day of public trading on the New York Stock Exchange today, clinching a blank-check merger deal that unlocked about $283 million in capital.

The business combination with Osprey Technology Acquisition Corp. — a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC — was approved by Osprey’s shareholders on Wednesday. BlackSky is now trading under the BKSY ticker symbol for common stock and BKSY.W for BlackSky warrants.

“Our team is excited that we have reached this major milestone on our first-to-know mission to lead a new era of real-time global intelligence,” BlackSky CEO Brian O’Toole said in a news release.

BKSY opened at $7 a share, and after a brief upward spike, it hovered slightly below the $7 mark in East Coast morning trading.

BlackSky started out as a subsidiary of Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries in 2013, with the goal of creating a satellite constellation for Earth observation as well as a software platform for strategic analysis of data from satellites and other sources.

The company’s AI-based Spectra platform can draw upon such data to provide actionable information on issues ranging from the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on military installations to the impact of a ship stuck in the Suez Canal on global maritime traffic.

BlackSky went its own way last year when Japan’s Mitsui & Co. acquired Spaceflight Industries’ other subsidiary, Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc. The SPAC deal with Osprey, announced in February, valued BlackSky at nearly $1.5 billion. That includes BlackSky’s half-interest in LeoStella, a satellite manufacturing company based in Tukwila, Wash. (BlackSky’s partner in the joint venture is Thales Alenia Space.)

As a result of the business combination, BlackSky received about $103 million in cash held in trust by Osprey, plus the proceeds of a $180 million private investment in public equity, or PIPE. Just last week, BlackSky announced that Palantir Technologies, which was co-founded by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, would make an equity investment in the combined company.

BlackSky says it currently has more than 200 employees. Most of those are based in Herndon, Va., but 53 are working in Seattle.

The company has seven of its Global satellites in low Earth orbit, with plans to boost that number to 30 by 2025. Two satellites were lost during a launch in May, due to a second-stage anomaly suffered by the launch provider, Rocket Lab.

Rocket Lab says it has resolved the anomaly, which was traced to a glitch with the engine igniter system, and will send six BlackSky satellites to orbit in a trio of back-to-back missions this year.

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