WASHINGTON — A geospatial imagery and analytics provider to the intelligence community is going public following an expected $1.5 billion merger with an investment group, the company announced.

BlackSky Holdings Inc., which regularly provides imagery and analytics to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and other government organizations via its fleet of imagery satellites, said Feb. 18 it will merge with Osprey Technology Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company formed to raise money through an initial public offering to buy a private company. BlackSky will use the symbol BKSY on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company has five satellites in commercial operation, but expects to add nine more this year. In addition to producing high-resolution imagery, the company can provide real-time analytics with its artificial intelligence platform.

“This transaction fully funds our growth plans and accelerates our vision of providing our customers with a ‘first-to-know’ advantage. This is an important inflection point for our industry as commercial and government users demand access to real-time information about the changes that matter most to them,” said BlackSky CEO Brian O’Toole in a statement.

Since launching in 2014, BlackSky has secured a number of government contracts.

In 2017, the Air Force Research Laboratory awarded BlackSky $16.4 million to develop a cloud-based GEOINT platform for collection and on-demand analytics.

BlackSky was one of three companies — along with Planet and Maxar Technologies — awarded study contracts by the National Reconnaissance Office, the intelligence agency charged with operating the nation’s spy satellites and securing commercial imagery. Issued in May 2019, those study contracts were meant to help NRO determine how it wants to secure commercial GEOINT for the intelligence community. The agency has since stated that no single provider can fully meet its needs, and it plans to rely on multiple vendors.

And in November 2020, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency announced that it was adding data from BlackSky and Planet to its Global Enhanced GEOINT Delivery system, a portal that supplies unclassified imagery to the federal government and foreign partners. NGA was also a partner on BlackSky’s work with AFRL.

BlackSky is also one of a handful of companies consistently mentioned by the military as it develops a beyond-line-of-sight targeting capability using LEO imagery satellites. In September, the U.S. Army tested its ability to use commercial imagery satellites to successfully target and hit threats during its Project Convergence event. Following the demonstration, Willie Nelson, director of Army Futures Command Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing Cross-Functional Team, told C4ISRNET the Army could tap into the imagery capabilities of companies like BlackSky, Planet Labs, Maxar’s Worlview and Hawkeye 360.

The company said its “pipeline of opportunities grew by $1.1 billion” to $1.7 billion over the last 12 months.

“We are delighted to partner with BlackSky, a first mover in a large and exciting new market,” said Osprey CEO David DiDomenico, a partner with investor JANA Partners. “The new space economy is taking off, and we believe that BlackSky’s low-cost image capture and on-demand delivery of analytics will revolutionize the way companies and governments detect and track change.”

The transaction, which is set to close July, is expected to bring in $450 million in net proceeds, BlackSky said. That money will go toward extending the company’s analytics platform and adding more satellites to its constellations.

Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.

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