Government & Politics  September 9, 2021

Moonshot unit pursues partnerships in Japan

LOUISVILLE — Sierra Space Corp. will pursue new clients in Japan for its envisioned space station with Tokyo-based trading partner, Kanematsu Corp.

Sierra is developing a low-Earth orbit space station, a “spaceplane” dubbed Dream Chaser, and pop-up-like “life habitats,” among other ventures. A press release said the space station is a commercial platform planned as a “modular, flexible … environment for living and working” and aimed at “pharmaceuticals, space tourism and agriculture” work.

CGI video still shows possible work in low-Earth orbit space station. Courtesy Sierra Space Corp.

Scientific research may also be possible, the company said in June.

Kanematsu is a 130-year-old conglomerate, one of its country’s sōgō shōsha or general trading companies with deep relationships in dozens of industries. Its four main segments include aerospace efforts that have recently begun to focus on military, government and commercial space projects.

The two companies have worked together before, a press release said.

“There are huge opportunities and potential collaborations in the free-flying commercial space station in Japan, with both heritage space and non-space companies,” said Ryoichi Kidokoro, a senior executive in Kanematsu’s aerospace area, according to the release.

Kanematsu has the equivalent of about $6.2 billion in trailing 12 months’ revenue and trades on the Tokyo exchange at a $1.1 billion market cap. Its other three major operating segments touch electronics, food products, and natural resources and manufacturing including oil, petroleum products, and chemicals.

Sierra Space CEO Tom Vice said an “expanded agreement with Kanematsu [will] leverage the impressive capabilities of Japanese industry for our commercial space station.”

Sierra Space Corp. plane departs from space station in video envisioning of planned products. Courtesy Sierra Space Corp.

Sierra in April moved from being a unit to a stand-alone firm under parent, Sparks, Nevada-based Sierra Nevada Corp. The move drove speculation a SPAC link-up for the now-more-independent division was now possible.

CNBC at the time pegged Sierra Space revenue at $400 million, quoting an internal company memo that also said this could grow 10-fold within a decade. Space-science industry watchers noted this depended on securing NASA contracts for the space station.

Nevada Corp. SNC is owned by husband-and-wife Fatih and Eren Ozmen, Turkish immigrants who have made two dozen acquisitions since buying the company in 1994.

It had 20 employees at the time and now has about 4,000 in 19 states. Forbes said SNC provides high-tech communication and photographic aircraft to the military and estimates the couple’s wealth at $1.4 billion.

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