Spacecraft Maker Sierra Nevada Corp. Buys Wisconsin Supplier Orbitec

6/20/14Follow @XconomyWI

Sierra Nevada Corp., which is building the Dream Chaser spacecraft in Colorado, has acquired Madison, WI-based supplier Orbital Technologies Corp. for an undisclosed price.

Orbital Technologies, commonly known as Orbitec, makes rocket engines that run on environmentally friendly fuel, as well as systems that moderate temperature and humidity in spacecraft, among other products. It has been a Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) supplier for more than three years, according to a press release.

SNC headquarters are in Sparks, NV, with the company’s space systems business based in Louisville, CO. The Dream Chaser would transport up to seven astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station. SNC is up against Boeing (NYSE: BA) and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, but the Dream Chaser has made progress in recent months meeting NASA requirements and snagging international partners.

After the acquisition, Orbitec will remain in the Madison area and continue to operate as a wholly-owned SNC subsidiary, led by current president Tom Crabb, the press release said. Orbitec was founded in 1988 and currently has 80 employees working at locations in Madison and nearby Middleton, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. It tests rockets at the former Badger Army Ammunition site outside Baraboo, WI, the newspaper said.

“Merging with SNC integrates compatible cultures for rapid and efficient deployment of space technologies and products, and enables Orbitec to accelerate commercialization of its high-performance and cost-effective products to market,” Crabb said in the press release.

Those products also include technology that could eventually be used to grow plants in space and, for use on Earth, fire-fighting equipment that Orbitec says can put out fires more quickly and with less water than traditional systems.

Jeff Engel is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @XconomyWI

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