Spaace

With the Virgin Galactic news, and Freetrade’s investment platform on the way and promising a vastly expanded stock universe, I thought I’d take the time to run through a topic that personally interests me. Space is the next frontier, and its fairly likely that we’re going to see advancements within our lifetime that were unthinkable to even our parents. I’ve broken up all the space-related stocks I could find into rough sections and given each company a brief intro (I’ve also put the Freetrade icon to good use to show which are presently available in the app). If there’s demand I can keep this post updated with any IPOs, mergers and other actions as are likely to occur in the near future. Here we go:

Satellite & Communication

Iridium Communications ($IRDM)

Operates a huge constellation of 141 communication satellites primarily for voice and data use.

Intelsat ($I)

The former intergovernmental organisation established in 1964 now operates almost 50 satellites across C, Ku and Ka bands.

SES S.A. (€SES)

Luxembourg-domiciled SES has partial or full ownership of a strew of satellite operators across North America, Africa and the Middle East, as well as media distribution companies and governmental contract units. The company has a 43-strong orbital fleet.

Eutelsat (€ETL)

Operator of 34 satellites that provide governmental and commercial communication services to the entire Eurasian continent and much of North Africa.

EchoStar ($SATS)

Satellite-broadband operator that owns the fourth largest commercial geosynchronous fleet that provides for the Dish TV network that it was spun off from in 2008.

Loral Space & Communications ($LORL)

Operates the Telesat network of satellites that has partnered with Blue Origin and Alphabet’s Loon, as well as XSTAR which operates a monopoly in the commercial X-band frequency. Previously manufactured satellites but that operation is now part of Maxar.

SKY Perfect JSAT Holding ( J¥9412)

Operates the JSAT constellation and provides the SKY PerfecTV! satellite broadcasting service.

AsiaSat (H$1135)

Provides capacity leasing and data transmission services for the Asia-Pacific region through six satellites.

Viasat ($VSAT)

American firm that provides satellite-based broadband services, and currently has three satellites in orbit.

Avanti Communications (£AVN)

Listed on the AIM, is a satellite broadband firm specialising in the Ka-band but has had a difficult few years marked by refinancing and staff departures. It currently has two satellites in orbit with two more planned but even if growth returns it will likely get acquired by one of the more established players.

Pure Plays

OHB SE (€OHB)

Europe’s largest pure-play space multinational owns a number of businesses that focus on a wide range of space-related services including the fabrication of satellites, outfitting of spacecraft (including the ISS) and the supply of components to major space programmes. Some OHB revenues are still tied up on Earth; it sells mechatronic systems for ground-based antennas and telescopes, which could provide an advantage over rivals.

Aerojet Rocketdyne ($AJRD)

This recent merger of two US space-race veterans is a leading supplier of power and propulsion systems, including liquid rocket engines, missile, nuclear and electric propulsion, as well as the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators used by the Mars rovers and batteries and solar arrays used on the International Space Station. The company is also currently developing an ion thruster for NASA’s NextSTEP programme.

ÅAC Microtec (SkrAAC)

This Swedish-based microsatellite specialist might classify as a growth stock with turnover of just £6m last year, and it acquired Glaswegian CubeSat provider Clyde Space for £26m in 2017, which it claims allows it to offer full turnkey services from design to orbit operations.

Maxar Technologies ($MAXR)

The Colorado-based space firm owns a number of businesses, including MDA; a space robotics specialist, SSL; a dominant satellite builder, DigitalGlobe; a satellite imagery service and Radiant Solutions, which provides analysis services using said satellite imagery. In May 2019, Maxar was selected by NASA to be a prime contractor for its Lunar Gateway programme.

Energia (₽RKKE)

The PAO S. P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia is the main private space contractor for Russia’s Roscosmos, and builds the legendary Soyuz and Progress sister spacecraft. It also provides development and experimental support to the astronauts of the Russian segment onboard the ISS.

China Spacesat Co. (C¥600118)

Microsatellite producer that could give you some exposure to the Chinese space industry. Information may be difficult to glean for Western investors, however, so good luck trying to navigate the impenetrable website.

Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. ($IPOA)

Former Facebook-exec Chamath Palihapitiya’s cash shell will merge with Virgin Galactic by the end of the year to form a $1.5bn space tourism business. Flights are scheduled to begin in 2020 from the achingly futuristic Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Conglomerates

Airbus (€AIR)

The aerospace giant’s Defence and Space division is involved with a number of research and transportation missions on behalf of the ESA, as well as the Ariane Joint Venture with Safran that manufactures launch vehicles for the same space agency. The company also builds communication and observation satellites.

Boeing ($BA) :freetrade:

Boeing’s wide-ranging space operations include spacesuit material design, GPS satellite assembly, space capsule design and Spectrolab, which manufacturers space photovoltaics. It is a prime contractor for the international Lunar Orbital Gateway project and operates the United Launch Alliance Joint Venture with Lockheed Martin that provides launch services.

Northrop Grumman ($NOC) :freetrade:

Northrop Grumman has decades of experience working for the US Defence Department, and supplied numerous military satellites, tracking systems and motor stages for missiles and rockets, including the UK’s Trident. Its Mojave-based subsidiary Scaled Composites manufactures Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft and other stratospheric prototypes. Last year it purchased Orbital ATK, which manufactures rockets, the Cygnus cargo spacecraft, as well as communication and observation satellites.

Lockheed Martin ($LMT) :freetrade:

Another American defence contractor that is the chief architect of the Trident-class missiles and the controversial F-35 Fighter. The company has worked extensively with NASA on spacecraft production. Aside from the Boeing Joint Venture, Lockheed collaborates with Energia and Roskosmos and has invested in CubeSat launcher Rocket Lab.

Safran S.A. (€SAF)

This French Aerospace company has many contracts with its native defence department, but its main space capabilities include satellite equipment, propulsion and space optics. Operates the Ariane Joint Venture.

Electric Optic Systems (A$EOS)

An Australian defence contractor that develops laser technology for tracking space debris and has worked with JAXA for optical laser communication on the Hayabusa2 probe.

United Technologies ($UTX)

Subsidiary Collins Aerospace makes the space suit and life support systems used by NASA astronauts onboard the ISS.

Thales (€HO)

Operates Thales Alenia Space with a majority 67% shareholding alongside Italian defence contractor Leonardo S.p.A. The subsidiary is a designer of telecoms, navigation and observation satellites. Claims to be responsible for over half of the ISS’ pressurised volume. It is a prime contractor on the European ExoMars mission and ATV vehicle and on NASA’s Cygnus and Orion programmes.

Honeywell ($HON)

Has supplied 1,900 components to the ISS since 1998 including navigation, life support control and scientific equipment.

L3Harris Technologies ($LHX)

The recently merged entity consists of the former L-3 Communications, which holds service contracts with NASA and manufactures space sensors, and Harris Corp which produces small satellites mainly for governments.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (J¥7011)

The Japanese engineering conglomerate is involved with Japan’s ISS programmes and produces JAXA’s primary launch vehicles and related electronic systems.

Toyota Motor Corporation (J¥7203)

The world’s largest auto manufacturer began collaborating with JAXA this year to produce a fuel-cell-powered manned rover as part of the country’s plans for lunar exploration beginning in 2029.

Technology

Analog Devices ($ADI)

Manufacturer of semiconductor products, and has a specialist portfolio that is qualified for space applications.

Softbank (J¥9984)

The Japanese investment group is in pretty much everything (to the point of absurdity some may claim), but a few holdings that should pique interest are ARM, who design the low-power chips that Analog Devices and others are increasingly marketing for aerospace, online mapping provider Mapbox, which services customers such as Facebook and The Weather Channel, and a partial stake in OneWeb, which is in the race for satellite-constellations.

Facebook ($FB) :freetrade:

Facebook is itself competing against OneWeb and SpaceX to build a global satellite-based internet service, and could launch its first equipment into orbit this year.

Alphabet ($GOOG) :freetrade:

Google’s Loon project of internet-harbouring stratospheric balloons was graduated from the secretive X division in 2018, and is on track for deployment in Kenya. Alphabet may also be using its acquisition of Titan Aerospace in 2014 to pursue other projects but none have been made public. Google is a significant minority shareholder in SpaceX.

Qualcomm ($QCOM) :freetrade:

This chip maker has a partnership and stake in OneWeb, and is a leader in 5G technology.

Microsoft ($MSFT) :freetrade:

Given the size of the Redmond giant, it already has substantial space interests. It has worked alongside NASA’s JPL and Inmarsat, and operates the increasingly influential Azure data centre network.

Amazon ($AMZN) :freetrade:

Like the other big data players, Amazon’s enormous AWS operation would benefit from the colossal amounts of information space exploration would produce. Aside from this, many may already know that Amazon’s stock performance is already funding Jeff Bezos’ own space venture, Blue Origin. Similarly to the company below, its CEO’s connections may provide future synergies.

Wild Punts

Tesla ($TSLA) :freetrade:

This may seem like a joke, but it’s a serious proposition. Aside from the recent Maxwell acquisition giving Tesla potentially game-changing energy density that would allow for applications such as VTOL, Elon Musk co-founded SpaceX. Its unlikely to ever go public, but when space travel and Mars occupation becomes a reality, there will be a demand for EVs (let’s not forget the moon buggy was electric), and Tesla’s biggest shareholder has gone on record as being interested in aerospace products. Synergies are also possible, SpaceX’s Starlink constellation could provide network access for Tesla’s fleet.

Hilton ($HLT)

Aside from its famous branding in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey there isn’t much here, but if space tourism were to pick up significantly, Hilton may want in on the action.


As always, this is not investment advice and individual investors should make their own decisions on what investments they are personally comfortable with.

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Off topic in terms of investment possibilities (Excellent read though - thanks), but what do you make of Starshot - a plan to get miniature space ships to Alpha Centauri at 20% the speed of light using a supercharged laser :fireworks:? MIT Technology Review article here.

Thanks for this great write-up. Loving the last ‘wild punt’.

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Thanks for the kind words @EdS and @Viktor. I have to say I simply have a casual interest, I am by no means an expert, or in any way qualified :sweat_smile:. I personally think that there are enough possible as yet untested methods (such as lasers) for achieving near light speed travel that one of them will be successfully implemented (PBS’s classic explainer is still good on this for anyone who’s curious). I do think however that interstellar travel, at least for humans, is way way off, which is handy as we should probably hone our skills in the solar system first (besides, exploring Sol will be great, we’ve got the Moon, Mars, Venus as a literal live laboratory on how badly Earth can go wrong, and the weird moons of the gas giants. The next fifty years might just be amazing, but I do harbour a little bit of nervousness on the effects of space commercialism and colonialism.

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Love this post, @dkeighobadi :rocket:

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This is awesome! Thanks for sharing :smile:

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Thanks for the exhaustive list!

One thing to keep in mind is that every single LEO commsat constellation company had gone bankrupt, either before going into operation or after (including those operating today like Iridium and Orbcomm).
SpaceX’s Starlink is not a general investment option due to not being publicly traded, but there are also Amazon’s Kuiper (backed by Bezos cash, but a Johnny-come-lately to the fiercely competitive fight for RF spectrum); and Oneweb (nee WorldVu) who have some first-mover advantage in the spectrum fight, but are in a more precious situation financially.

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