Investing in Space

Investing in Space: A year to forget for space stocks

The company's modified 747 jet "Cosmic Girl" takes off from a runway.
Virgin Orbit

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Overview: A year to forget for space stocks

For most anyone with money in the market, 2022 was a year to forget – and space stocks were no exception. While the sector has continued to grow, many of the companies who took the fast SPAC way out ran into a wall this year.

Remember, these space SPAC names all came to market at about $10 a share. Now, seven such companies trade under $2 a share. Astra, Momentus and Spire each slipped under $1 in the past few months. Even shares of Rocket Lab and Planet – two of Wall Street's favorite space de-SPACs, with some of the strongest revenue and cash positions – have given up half their go-public value. 

But there were a handful of winners: Year to date, Iridium ended up the strongest, climbing about 23% – while both Maxar and Aerojet Rocketdyne surged into the green thanks to tentative acquisition deals from Advent and L3Harris, respectively.

Morgan Stanley in a note to clients recently highlighted those deals as evidence that "space companies [are] on Santa's List," and I suspect M&A won't be slowing down in 2023. Morgan Stanley emphasized that the recent deals "reflect the attractiveness of the space endmarket," especially given the sector's continued growing importance to U.S. national security interests.

As we talked about earlier this year, it's a story of survival for many of the young publicly traded names. The rosy forecasts in many of the company's SPAC decks are already in the rear view, and I expect I'll be spending much of the months to come writing about who survives, sells or disappears entirely.

A programming note: Investing in Space will be taking the next week off for holiday travel. See you in the New Year!

What's up

  • NASA considers tapping SpaceX for Soyuz backup plan: While Russia is examining the effects of a coolant leak on its Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft, NASA is speaking to SpaceX about the possibility of using a Crew Dragon capsule to return a U.S. astronaut and two cosmonauts if the Russian capsule can't fly the trio home. – Reuters
  • SpaceX completes 60th orbital launch of the year, setting a new record: The company launched the first of its "upgraded" Starlink satellites, and shattered its annual record of 31 missions, set the previous year. – SpaceX
  • U.S. budget features $26.3 billion for Space Force, with Congress funding the military branch above what the Department of Defense requested. – SpaceNews
  • Virgin Orbit receives license to launch from the UK: The company is now moving forward with final checks of its modified 747 and rocket, including a rehearsal, with a launch date not yet announced. – Virgin Orbit

Industry maneuvers

  • Poland buying two Airbus satellites for $612 million, in a deal through the French government. The imagery satellites would launch in 2027. – Reuters
  • U.S. Special Operations Command awards Viasat with $325 million contract, covering a five-year period. – Viasat