Author Topic: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)  (Read 24536 times)

Online gongora

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SpaceX is buying Swarm.

https://fcc.report/IBFS/SAT-T-C-20210806-00096

Quote
Swarm Technologies, Inc. (“Swarm” or “Transferor”) and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (“SpaceX” or “Transferee”) (together, the “Applicants”) hereby request Federal Communications Commission (“Commission”) consent to transfer to SpaceX control of the earth and space station licenses held by Swarm, a U.S.-licensed satellite operator in the non-voice, non-geostationary mobile-satellite service (“NVNG MSS”) authorized to operate in the 137–138 MHz and 148–150.05 MHz bands (the “NVNG VHF Bands”). Swarm and SpaceX have executed a merger agreement pursuant to which, as described more fully in Section I.C below, Swarm will become a direct, wholly-owned subsidiary of SpaceX (the “Proposed Transaction”).
...
On July 16, 2021, SpaceX, Swarm, Swarm Holdco, Inc., a Delaware corporation and wholly-owned subsidiary of SpaceX (“Merger Sub”), and Dr. Sara Spangelo, solely in her capacity as Stockholder Representative, entered into an Agreement and Plan of Merger (“Merger Agreement”). The Merger Agreement provides for the merger of Merger Sub with and into Swarm (the “Merger”), with Swarm surviving the Merger as a direct wholly-owned subsidiary of SpaceX upon consummation of the Proposed Transaction.

Offline Bob Niland

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #1 on: 08/07/2021 10:56 pm »
Being completely unfamiliar, this appears to be:
https://swarm.space/
and not:
swarmtechnology.us, nor swarm.com, nor {several other obvious domain names}

So I'd have no speculation on whether Sx is buying IP, spectrum or any existing physical assets and/or workforce.
Working for SX could be exhilarating, as long as the job description doesn't include Master PERT Chart.

Offline LooZ

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #2 on: 08/07/2021 11:00 pm »
After looking at this company's website, I assume it's about hardware for on-the-ground solutions - a photovoltaic-powered base that collects data en masse from a local network of "beacons" and sends it over the internet to a user anywhere in the world. This is a powerful extension of Starlink's capabilities and a brilliant solution from a military perspective as well.

Offline FlattestEarth

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #3 on: 08/08/2021 12:50 am »
Will they add the spacebee receivers to future starlink satellites or will they keep separate constellations?

Offline lonestriker

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #4 on: 08/08/2021 05:26 am »
Will they add the spacebee receivers to future starlink satellites or will they keep separate constellations?

If I had to guess, they would just add them to at least a subset of the Starlinks; and to all of them in later Starlink revisions.  It's likely not going to add much to mass/cost of Starlinks and will add another large market for them.  Having global IoT connectivity for a small incremental cost will be a good revenue stream in the future.  Agriculture and oil/gas pipelines would be a big market where you need cheap, low bandwidth sensors.

I wouldn't be surprised if they eventually add other sensors/transmitters to the constellation eventually (cameras, IR imaging and SAR come to mind.)

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #5 on: 08/08/2021 07:30 am »
https://twitter.com/trengriffin/status/1424200788675420166

Quote
1/ In a recent podcast I predicted that SpaceX and other space operators would continue moving the industry from a horizontal to a vertical structure, with businesses moving up the stack into providing new services. Increases TAM and hopefully margins.

twitter.com/trengriffin/status/1424204481084870661

Quote
2/ "One of the ways to create enough demand for [SpaceX] launch is to be your own demand. And so there's Starlink....

Starlink is most likely to be a gusher of cash, not from selling bandwidth, but from selling services on top of that bandwidth." Tren

https://twitter.com/trengriffin/status/1424206001977233413

Quote
3/ In a space business, there are two ways to generate absolute dollar free cash flow. You can build a better horizontal service like rocket launches, or you can go vertical, preferably higher in the stack into higher margin application services with software style margins.

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #6 on: 08/08/2021 07:53 am »
This, SpaceX doesn’t usually acquire:

https://twitter.com/spacecom/status/1424169023097344000

Quote
Rare acquisition. SpaceX usually just hires people from whatever company they're interested in and/or reverse engineers the technology they want, makes some improvements and declares they haven't violated any patents or IP.

Some people speculating on social media it’s purely about Swarm’s licenses. Whatever the reason(s), it’s unusual.

Offline su27k

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #7 on: 08/08/2021 08:17 am »
If I had to guess, they would just add them to at least a subset of the Starlinks; and to all of them in later Starlink revisions.  It's likely not going to add much to mass/cost of Starlinks and will add another large market for them.  Having global IoT connectivity for a small incremental cost will be a good revenue stream in the future.  Agriculture and oil/gas pipelines would be a big market where you need cheap, low bandwidth sensors.

I wouldn't be surprised if they eventually add other sensors/transmitters to the constellation eventually (cameras, IR imaging and SAR come to mind.)

I agree that Starlink will carry more sensors and widgets to expand the revenue stream, the entire constellation will be a platform where you can just add on various services, anything that can be done via a separate LEO constellation can be integrated into Starlink. This should start happening with v2 which could have a lot more mass budget to play with given it'll launch on Starship.

But I have always assumed SpaceX will develop these additional hardware in house. Buying some other company is not their MO, although it would certainly speed things up if they're in a hurry (to get Starlink v2.0 ready to launch on Starship?). If that's the case, we may see more acquisitions in the near future.

Offline vsatman

If I had to guess, they would just add them to at least a subset of the Starlinks; and to all of them in later Starlink revisions.  It's likely not going to add much to mass/cost of Starlinks and will add another large market for them.  Having global IoT connectivity for a small incremental cost will be a good revenue stream in the future.  Agriculture and oil/gas pipelines would be a big market where you need cheap, low bandwidth sensors.

I wouldn't be surprised if they eventually add other sensors/transmitters to the constellation eventually (cameras, IR imaging and SAR come to mind.)

I agree that Starlink will carry more sensors and widgets to expand the revenue stream, the entire constellation will be a platform where you can just add on various services, anything that can be done via a separate LEO constellation can be integrated into Starlink. This should start happening with v2 which could have a lot more mass budget to play with given it'll launch on Starship.

But I have always assumed SpaceX will develop these additional hardware in house. Buying some other company is not their MO, although it would certainly speed things up if they're in a hurry (to get Starlink v2.0 ready to launch on Starship?). If that's the case, we may see more acquisitions in the near future.

to use this service (i.e. 150 MHz Band ) on StarLink Gen2, you need to obtain a new FCC approval

Offline Reynold

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #9 on: 08/09/2021 03:58 pm »
Additional information in this article at SpaceNews;

https://spacenews.com/spacex-to-acquire-swarm-technologies/

An interesting item is that the Spacex subsidiary that is acquiring Swarm was incorporated in Delaware on May 5, showing that negotiations have been under way for a while. 

Offline RedLineTrain

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #10 on: 08/09/2021 04:07 pm »
Will they add the spacebee receivers to future starlink satellites or will they keep separate constellations?

If I had to guess, they would just add them to at least a subset of the Starlinks; and to all of them in later Starlink revisions.  It's likely not going to add much to mass/cost of Starlinks and will add another large market for them.  Having global IoT connectivity for a small incremental cost will be a good revenue stream in the future.  Agriculture and oil/gas pipelines would be a big market where you need cheap, low bandwidth sensors.

I wouldn't be surprised if they eventually add other sensors/transmitters to the constellation eventually (cameras, IR imaging and SAR come to mind.)

I'm not convinced that they will add the Swarm comms package to the Starlink satellites.  Instead, perhaps they will just use the Starlink bus on dedicated IoT satellites, using any excess power in the same manner that Starlink does, except on VHF instead of Ku/Ka-band.

Similar thought experiment to if SpaceX bought Iridium (which I have been half-expecting).
« Last Edit: 08/09/2021 04:18 pm by RedLineTrain »

Online gongora

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #11 on: 08/09/2021 04:21 pm »
Using the Starlink bus for dedicated low bandwidth UHF IoT sats would be a waste, easier to just add a small payload to a subset of the normal Starlinks.  The additional payload could be tiny (and if they mimicked the Swarm antennas very well they might not even need to change many regulatory filings).

Offline RedLineTrain

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #12 on: 08/09/2021 04:50 pm »
I was thinking about it from the other end:  how could SpaceX increase the utility of the VHF service if the mass and power constraints were lifted almost entirely?  This assumes that SpaceX actually wants the already-approved license.

Offline dondar

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #13 on: 08/09/2021 04:51 pm »
key quote from the report:
"Upon consummation of the proposed transfer of control (the “Proposed Transaction”), the licensee, Swarm Technologies, Inc. (“Swarm”), will be a direct wholly-owned subsidiary of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (“SpaceX”)."


It means that Swarm will continue to do what they do under SpaceX umbrella.

It means that SpaceX is not after  Swarm patents (buying company is more expensive than patents. Always is.).

It means that SpaceX is not after Swarm brains. (the arrangements would be done otherwise).

Here is the best open article which provides info for "general Joe" about who Swarm are.
https://qz.com/1800081/swarm-satellites-installs-ground-station-in-antarctica/
Conclusion: it is "Shotwell" buy to augment SpaceX offerings for big clients (IMO, NSF and Air Force).

Offline RedLineTrain

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #14 on: 08/09/2021 05:33 pm »
A bit of background.  This company was seeded by Social Capital (Chamath Palihapitiya) and its Series A was led by Craft Ventures.  Especially Craft (Bill Lee, David Sacks) is pretty well entwined with Musk Inc.  So everybody knows everybody else well in this case.

Offline TRS717

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #15 on: 08/09/2021 05:34 pm »
It looks as if Swarm and SpaceX may share some cultural and operational DNA too, so there's that:

https://spacenews.com/fcc-fines-swarm-900000-for-unauthorized-smallsat-launch/

Online gongora

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #16 on: 08/09/2021 06:08 pm »
I was thinking about it from the other end:  how could SpaceX increase the utility of the VHF service if the mass and power constraints were lifted almost entirely?  This assumes that SpaceX actually wants the already-approved license.

I don't think it's likely that increasing the mass and power would really increase the utility at all.  It's a tiny slice of frequencies.

Offline aero

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #17 on: 08/09/2021 07:22 pm »
I was thinking about it from the other end:  how could SpaceX increase the utility of the VHF service if the mass and power constraints were lifted almost entirely?  This assumes that SpaceX actually wants the already-approved license.

I don't think it's likely that increasing the mass and power would really increase the utility at all.  It's a tiny slice of frequencies.

One thing it does is make that tiny slice of frequencies available for add on (non-Starlink) packages on a noninterference basis.
Retired, working interesting problems

Offline RedLineTrain

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #18 on: 08/09/2021 10:30 pm »
It means that SpaceX is not after Swarm brains. (the arrangements would be done otherwise).

Agreed, but just poking around today, I found Sara Spangelo (Swarm's CEO) to be impressive.  Wouldn't be surprised to see her run Starlink someday, if she would want that.

Offline Asteroza

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Re: SpaceX buying Swarm Technologies (satellite IoT provider)
« Reply #19 on: 08/10/2021 02:15 am »
It's been suggested elsewhere that it could also be a protection move, as swarm spacebees are an operational risk to Starlink sats? Kill off the nominal spacebee constellation and incorporate the hardware onto Starlink sats, so they don't have to dodge the hard to spot spacebees all the time?

That's an interesting notion for venture capital though, be enough of an annoyance to Starlink to get bought out...

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