Musk's SpaceX buys satellite start-up Swarm

SpaceX announces acquisition of low-cost satellite network provider Swarm

SpaceX headquarters in Los Angeles                                 
SpaceX has bought satellite comms kit maker Swarm in a rare acquisition

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has announced it is to buy satellite start-up Swarm, which provides low-cost communications in remote parts of the world. 

The acquisition was revealed in a Federal Communications Commission filing on 6 August, though the financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Swarm, founded in 2017 by CEO Sara Spangelo and CTO Ben Longmier, provides smart-device connectivity, or the Internet of Things (IoT), through a network of satellites.

Swarm has so far deployed more than 80 miniature satellites – smaller than a CD case at just 11cm square – and plans to launch another 150 over the next year.

In February of this year, Swarm announced it was making its low-cost satellite data available to commercial clients. In July, it launched the Swarm Eval Kit, an ‘out of the box’ satellite communications kit costing $600, with data plans at $60 a year, that allows users to send GPS locations and messages through their phones and run IoT devices.

Swarm's satellites are launched on SpaceX rockets. However, SpaceX's acquisition of Swarm is interesting given that Musk's company has developed Starlink, its own in-house satellite system offering internet access. CNBC reports that SpaceX and Musk will benefit from access to Swarm's intellectual property and expertise. 

Spangelo commented in a company statement that Swarm’s focus has been to meet the “enormous and growing demand for a low-cost IoT network with 100% global continuous coverage".

“Swarm has come a long way since Ben and I founded the company in 2017, and we enter 2021 with exciting momentum,” she added.

“We have 81 satellites in space, 72 of which are for commercial services. We’ve grown the number of customers on our network and had almost 5 million data packets sent over the Swarm network (and counting),” Spangelo added.

Swarm is currently headquartered in Mountain View, California. 

Further reading: SpaceX raises $1.9bn in latest funding round

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