Industry

Space situational awareness company to be bought for $700 million

WASHINGTON — Ansys, an engineering simulation company, plans to purchase a Pennsylvania-based satellite tracking and modeling firm for $700 million, according to an Oct. 26 announcement.

Ansys is preparing to acquire Analytical Graphics Inc., which performs software development for simulation, modeling, testing and analysis tools for a number a uses, though perhaps the 30-year-old company is most well known for modeling and tracking satellites on orbit to provide key data on orbital mechanics that helps operators avoid collisions and safely operate their equipment.

That level of space situational awareness is likely to become even more valuable for satellite operators as space becomes more crowded. Experts predict as many as 10,000 new satellites to be launched over the next five years, driven by the proliferated constellations being developed by private businesses and the U.S. Defense Department. At the beginning of 2020, there were about 2,000 active satellites on orbit.

Recent near misses have further highlighted concerns over space debris. In January, two defunct satellites nearly collided in low Earth orbit. While there wasn’t much concern about damage to the two satellites, which had long ceased operations, a collision between the two would have sent debris scattering throughout space, posing a hazard to active satellites.

The Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee — a group of space agencies from around the world — say such incidents are likely to occur every five to nine years. But as space becomes more crowded, experts worry the likelihood of a collision will increase.

Ansys plans to add AGI’s space situational awareness tools to its simulation portfolio, allowing customers to simulate their entire mission — from the chip level all the way to a satellite’s orbital mechanics and connection to ground stations.

“Ansys' acquisition of AGI will help drive our strategy of making simulation pervasive from the smallest component now through a customer’s entire mission,” Ansys President and CEO Ajei Gopal said in a statement. “It will also expand the use of simulation in the key aerospace sector, where the stakes can be at their highest levels. We are excited to welcome the expert AGI team — and to expand the reach of their world-class technology to industries outside of aerospace, including for autonomy and 5G applications.”

AGI was already an Ansys partner, but the latter hopes the acquisition will drive new aerospace and defense customers to its mission-based simulation services.

“In the three decades since our founding, we have continuously invested in our technology to create and advance digital mission engineering,” AGI co-founder and CEO Paul Graziani said in a statement. “We are thrilled to become part of Ansys so we can dramatically extend the reach of our world-class products and help more customers accomplish their critical missions.”

The acquisition is expected to close before the end of 2020, with Ansys paying 67 percent of the $700 million price tag in cash and issuing stock for the remaining amount.

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