Astrobotic expands with acquisition of Masten Space Systems

Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic has acquired Masten Space Systems after the latter company filed for bankruptcy protection at the end of July. The acquisition comes following a successful $4.5 million bid for Masten’s assets in a Delaware bankruptcy court earlier this month.

The acquisition includes Masten’s substantial portfolio of space technologies, including its vertical take-off and landing rocketry and propulsion test centers. The acquisition brings the two companies’ combined workforce to over 200 employees, some of whom will continue to operate at Masten’s headquarters in Mojave, California. Founder and CTO of Masten, David Masten, is joining Astrobotic as chief engineer.

Astrobotic said it would continue suborbital flight operations at Masten’s facilities in Mojave, while continuing development of the Xogdor rocket. This rocket, the newest of Masten’s terrestrial landers, can be used by government and commercial customers to validate technologies like payload integration and landing systems. Masten also maintains propulsion test stands, which will continue to operate under new ownership.

“Masten’s suborbital launch vehicles and propulsion test centers are national assets for the space industry,” Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said in a statement. “We are excited to operate and expand these services for companies, governments, and space agencies internationally,”

Masten is also developing a series of lunar landers, and Astrobotic -- which is sending two landers to the moon under contracts with NASA -- will undoubtedly benefit from the influx of related tech. That includes “innovations in lunar night survival, instant landing pads construction, lunar water mining technology, and lunar infrastructure construction technologies,” which will continue to be developed, Astrobotic said.

It is unclear whether Astrobotic will fulfill Masten’s first lunar mission, Masten Mission 1. That mission, which is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, is scheduled for 2023.

The Delaware bankruptcy court held an auction for Masten’s assets on September 6. Two companies submitted additional bids: Intuitive Machines, which bid $2.7 million for a SpaceX launch credit, and $750,000 for testing equipment from Impulse Space.