Jeff Bezos is looking to up his game in the billionaire space race by acquiring one of the largest rocket makers out there. The Amazon founder’s space startup Blue Origin has reportedly subitted a buyout bid for United Launch Alliance (ULA), a rocket joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the Wall Street Journal reported today (Dec. 21). It’s unclear how much Bezos offered, but it’s likely a multibillion-dollar bid based on ULA’s past valuations.
The report confirmed Ars Technica’s report in November that ULA was up for sale and Blue Origin was a potential buyer. But Bezos isn’t the only billionaire with eyes on ULA. Cerberus, a private equity firm led by billionaire investor Stephen Feinberg, has also submitted a bid, while Textron, an aviation and defense conglomerate, has expressed an interest in acquiring ULA, according to the Journa
How Much is ULA worth?
ULA is not publicly traded, but its parent companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin are. Based on their financial disclosures to the SEC, ULA could be worth anywhere between $1.2 billion and $7 billion. The investment bank Jefferies estimates the rocket maker could be worth $2 billion to $3 billion in a private sale. In 2015, Aerojet, a manufacturer of rocket engines, offered to buy ULA for $2 billion, but the deal didn’t come to fruition.
What does ULA do?
ULA, formed in 2006, is one of a handful of orbital launch providers in the world, having completed more than 150 missions for Pentagon and NASA over the years. Before SpaceX’s reusable rockets entered operation, ULA’s workhorse Delta and Atlas rockets dominated the space launch market in the U.S.
Currently, ULA is looking to phase out these two launch vehicles and build a new one called Vulcan Centaur. In 2018, Blue Origin won a deal to build engines for the Vulcan. Previous ULA rockets were powered by Russian-made engines—a growing point of concern among some lawmakers given ULA’s role in launching science and defense missions.
ULA CEO Tory Bruno recently disclosed the company had sold 70 Vulcan missions already, including a few for launching Amazon’s Kuiper satellites. Amazon has also commissioned SpaceX, Blue Origin and Europe’s Arianespace to launch Kuiper satellites. Blue Origin plans on flying the missions using a yet-to-be-built rocket New Glenn, expected to complete next year.