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Astra to Acquire Propulsion Company Apollo Fusion

By Rachel Jewett | June 7, 2021

Apollo Fusion ACE thruster operating with Xenon propellant. Photo: Apollo Fusion

Smallsat launcher Astra has moved to acquire propulsion company Apollo Fusion in a deal valued at up to $145 million. The company is pitching the acquisition as an opportunity to increase its addressable launch market, and deliver spacecraft to orbits beyond Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). 

Apollo Fusion offers electric hall engines and has landed a number of contracts recently with York Space Systems, Saturn Satellite Networks’ constellation, Spaceflight’s Orbital Transfer Vehicle (OTV) Sherpa-LTE, and a U.S. Air Force intelligence satellite. 

Astra CEO Chris Kemp said Monday on an investor call that integrating Apollo Fusion technology will allow Astra to deliver satellites to Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO), Geostationary Orbit (GEO), and lunar orbit as well. Apollo Fusion will operate as a separate business and continue to serve its customers in the space industry, while Astra will also incorporate the tech into its services. 

“The ability for us to reposition satellites in space and precisely position satellites in space will allow us to have a great deal of flexibility for our customers, and increases the addressable market for Astra’s launch services platform,” Kemp said. 

Astra has agreed to purchase Apollo Fusion for $50 million up-front: $30 million in stock and $20 million in cash. The deal comes with potential for earn-outs: $10 million in employee incentive stock, $10 million in cash for reaching technical milestones, and $75 million in a mix of stock and cash for reaching revenue milestones — for a total potential value of $145 million. 

Apollo Fusion CEO Mike Cassidy said about half a dozen companies expressed interest in acquiring Apollo Fusion, and he felt that Astra was the best fit because of the companies’ similar outlook on high-volume manufacturing. 

“We looked very carefully at those options and Astra was by far the best strategic fit for us. They move fast, just like we like to move fast. They want to do things at scale, just like we want to do things at scale — we can manufacture 1,000 propulsion systems a year. From a strategic standpoint, we thought Astra was by far the best fit,” Cassidy said. 

Astra is in the midst of going through a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Holicity Inc., which will make Astra a publicly traded company valued at approximately $2.1 billion. The acquisition will go through once the merge is complete, and Astra expects it to generate revenue within the year.  

Astra is also preparing to enter commercial service after it first successfully reached orbit in December 2020, with its 3.2 rocket. The company recently signed its first commercial launch deal with Planet.