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The Sky is the Limit

The Sky is the Limit
June 4, 2020

In 2019, NASA announced it would open the International Space Station to private astronauts, with short missions beginning as soon as 2020. Last week, SpaceX and NASA delivered on that goal.

Additionally, NASA said it would allow companies to bid for new missions to the space station, as the agency unveiled a directive to “enable commercial manufacturing and production” in space. The space station has been touted as a stepping-stone toward creating an ecosystem of business in orbit around the Earth, so companies can manufacture, experiment, advertise, and even host tourists. Partnering with private companies is a step for NASA to lower the cost and risk of doing business in outer space. Effectively, the SpaceX mission served as a proof of concept for companies hoping to one day make money in space.

With the success of the SpaceX launch, NASA is passing the torch to private companies and is now working toward becoming a buyer of rockets, spacecraft and various services instead of a provider in low-Earth orbit, passing off more responsibility to private companies and allowing NASA to focus on further-afield goals like getting people to Mars.


 


The Drug Enforcement Administration has been granted sweeping new authority to “conduct covert surveillance” and collect intelligence on people participating in protests over the police killing of George Floyd. 

In addition to “covert surveillance,” the memo indicates that DEA agents would be authorized to share intelligence with local and state law enforcement authorities, to “intervene” to “protect both participants and spectators in the protests,” to conduct interviews and searches, and to arrest protesters who are alleged to have violated federal law.

With the rise of A.I.- driven facial recognition databases from companies like Clearview AI, government agencies across the nation have tools available to rapidly and easily identify anyone participating in a protest using only their photo.

The age of anonymous protest might be over. Although online posts offering ways to safely protest in the age of AI exist, the risk is still huge. In Baltimore, for example, we actually know that law enforcement used this tool called Geofeedia, which looked at public feeds for social media to try to identify people’s locations, during the 2015 protests over the death of Freddie Gray. Many people were arrested on completely unrelated charges because they were in the vicinity of the protests. 

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Commercial Space Exploration Companies:

A veteran when it comes to rocket launches, Orbital Sciences has a $1.9B contract with NASA to provide eight cargo missions for the International Space Station using its unmanned Cygnus spacecraft and the new Taurus 2 rocket. Orbital is planning the launches in 2021 from Wallops Island in Virginia. 

Blue Origin has remained extremely secretive about its plans but has tested a prototype of its New Shepard spacecraft at the company's proving grounds in Texas. Earlier this year, NASA awarded Blue Origin $3.7M to develop an astronaut escape system and build a composite space capsule prototype as part of its commercial crew program.

Bigelow Aerospace has been paving new ground in inflatable spacecraft, already launching two mini-space station prototypes, called Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Additionally, company founder Robert Bigelow has set his sights on developing a private moon base using inflatable technology. The company has been working closely with Boeing on potential crew capsules. Boeing received $18M from NASA this year to support the development of its own 7-person spacecraft.

California-based SpaceDev is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sierra Nevada Corp. (which acquired SpaceDev in 2008) and has been developing the reusable Dream Chaser spaceplane to launch crew and cargo into space at an Atlas 5 rocket. In February, Sierra Nevada won $20M in NASA funds to continue the Dream Chaser's development. The company aims to launch on a rocket and land on a conventional runway, for quick turnaround and reuse.

The only air-launched vehicle in the group, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo vehicle, is still just a suborbital vehicle designed for space tourism jaunts into space. The company envisions launching paying passengers on suborbital thrill rides for about $200,000 per seat. However, the spacecraft could be modified to launch small rockets or satellites for NASA or other users.

Funding & Deal Highlights:

Vacasa, North America’s largest vacation rental management platform, announces a $108M strategic investment round. The financing was led by existing investor Silver Lake with participation from other existing investors including Riverwood Capital and Level Equity.

Vetty, an NYC-based provider of an AI-based employee verification platform for gig-economy marketplaces and enterprises, raises $4M in Pre-Series A funding.

Massachusetts-based startup Overjet raises $7.85M in a seed round to bring data-driven care to dental practices. Overjet looks at clinical data, such as what procedures were done and what outcome was achieved. For example, Overjet could look at an x-ray and determine if a treatment is needed or not.

TAE Life Sciences, a biological-targeting radiation therapy company developing next-generation boron neutron capture therapy solutions, announces the launch of an innovative in-house boron delivery drug development program supported by an influx of $30M in funding. The initial phase of the B-round funds comes from a consortium of investors including ARTIS Ventures, who led the company's initial funding in 2018.

Heart Health Intelligence has designed and developed The Heart Seat, a unique cloud-connected toilet seat-based platform that effortlessly captures clinical-grade and relevant cardiac data from the patient’s home, without any change in the user’s habits. HHI has closed its $2.2M seed round to support the commercialization of The Heart Seat and achieve FDA clearance. This round was led by Bemis Manufacturing Company, with additional investments from LaunchNY, RIT Venture Fund, Tech Coast Angels, Excell Partners, and Impact Capital of New York.

Ahana, the Presto-based analytics company, announces it has raised $2.25M in funding led by GV (formerly Google Ventures) along with participation from Leslie Ventures and other angel investors. Additionally, Ahana has joined the Linux Foundation’s Presto Foundation. Ahana will use the funding to expand its technical team and deliver Presto-based analytics products. Founded during the Coronavirus pandemic, Ahana is a remote-from-the-start company.

Architect Equity announces that it has acquired Faultless Brands, owners of Faultless, Niagara and Magic laundry products, Bon Ami and Kleen King cleaning products, and Trapp Fragrances. Faultless Brands is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and has been family owned for over 130 years.

Shamrock Capital, a Los Angeles-based investment firm, announces that it has acquired Adweek, an industry leader in coverage of the advertising and brand marketing ecosystem, from Beringer Capital. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Greystar Real Estate Partners, LLC, a global leader in the investment, development, and management of high-quality rental housing properties, announces the acquisition of the property management business of Alliance Residential Company. The combined businesses will continue to deliver best-in-class services for clients, partners, and residents under the Greystar brand.

Alta Equipment Group Inc. announces that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire PeakLogix, a national material handling systems integrator located in Midlothian, Virginia. PeakLogix specializes in the design and installation of warehouse automation and storage systems and is recognized for designing customer solutions using the latest equipment and technology advancements to deliver process improvement and automation to its customers. PeakLogix generated approximately $25M in revenue and $2M in operating income in FY2019.

Transplace, the premier provider of logistics technology and services, announces the strategic acquisition of ScanData Systems, Inc., a leader in parcel transportation management solutions. ScanData’s enterprise-class, multi-carrier, parcel shipping solution streamlines and optimizes carrier selection, booking, label printing, tracking, invoice reconciliation, and Business Intelligence reporting at scale. The solution covers shipping and logistics needs across the entire parcel life cycle. Specializing in supporting parcel shippers with extremely high volumes and complex shipping rules, shippers will immediately benefit from the current integration of ScanData’s PTMS capabilities into Transplace’s industry-leading Transportation Management System and broader logistics platform.

Prodege, a leading online consumer-rewards platform, announces that it has acquired Upromise, Inc., a leading college education-savings rewards business, from Sallie Mae. This acquisition furthers Prodege's mission to "Create Rewarding Moments" for its over 120M registered members worldwide.

Since last week, PrivCo has added:
1081 Profiles | 96 M&A Deals141 Funding Activities
Exclusive Revenues, EV, EBITDA, and Valuations
SoftBank launches $100M fund to invest in 'people of color'
Named the “Opportunity Growth Fund”, its total initial size is less than a typical single investment by the $100B Vision Fund, which is headed by Marcelo Claure’s rival Rajeev Misra, and will focus on African Americans and Latinos in the U.S. [Read more].
China-Owned Playtika Hires Banks for $1B U.S. IPO
Playtika Ltd, a mobile gaming company owned by a Chinese investor group, has hired investment banks to prepare for a U.S. initial public offering that could raise around $1B. [Read more].
Thanks for reading. 
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