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Jul 14, 2022

Space-based Military Sensor Provider Geost Eyes Expansion Plans

By Michael Bruno

With new leadership and an eager private equity (PE) sponsor, Tucson, Arizona-based Geost, a provider of small-satellite electro-optical and infrared sensors to the U.S. military, is eyeing acquisitions and investment stakes in other companies.

“We will grow Geost organically, but we expect to make several acquisitions to build out the platform,” President Joshua Hartman told Aviation Week July 14. Geost looks to expand into commercial space markets and become a middle-market player.

The company, now backed by private equity firm ATL Partners, expects to make deals this year. Geost and ATL will look for complementary technologies that fit into its small form factor optical sensors, as well as Geost’s business plan, which calls for expansion in services related to space domain awareness (SDA) and positioning, navigation and timing (PNT).

Strategic partnerships with investment stakes could also be targeted with other space companies that provide related services, for example, ExoAnalytic Solutions, Numerica and LeoLabs.

ATL announced a “majority” investment in Geost last August, marking that PE firm’s first foray into space investing. Details were not provided. But on its website ATL notes that it has a minimum equity investment requirement of $75 million and a target equity investment range of $150-750 million through co-investments with its limited partners.

In June 2022, Hartman—who joined Geost in October 2019 to boost its Washington presence—became president, taking over from Tony Gleckler, who founded the company in 2004.

Hartman is a well-known face in Washington and an advocate for commercial and new-space approaches by the government. He was a U.S. Air Force program manager in the 1990s, then a professional staff member of the House defense authorization and appropriation committees, where he helped write legislation pushing operationally responsive space capabilities. He left Capitol Hill to become a senior advisor for space and intelligence to the Pentagon acquisition chief in the Obama administration. Later he worked on space issues at several Washington think tanks before becoming a managing partner of Renaissance Strategic Advisors.

Hartman said ATL’s takeover brings an influx of funds necessary to grow the company and resources to better professionalize its management, contacts and operations. Geost received interest from strategic legacy defense companies, but wanted to keep control of its own destiny, Hartman said. At the same time, national defense customers are increasingly interested in employing smaller, more agile providers of advanced technologies rather than relying solely on large traditional defense primes.

Geost is on a path to quadruple its workforce to roughly 160 employees by year’s end, thanks in part to “dozens” of new Arizona workers who were attracted to its smaller size and growth approach. Geost also plans to build up its Washington office, near U.S. military customers, with comparable expertise.

The military now uses Geost’s sensors in missile warning, laser communication applications, and tactical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations, Hartman says. But the company is eyeing commercial growth in SDA and PNT for nongovernment customers, as those markets are expected to grow later this decade.

SDA could remain a service mostly for other space companies, such as for laser communications. But PNT could open up a much larger total addressable market as businesses from finance to transportation seek hyperlocal, precision asset tracking or timing services, especially to augment or back up GPS-based services, Hartman says.

In January, Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment in the Trump administration, joined Geost’s board.

“Not only are they at the forefront of missile tracking and space protection, but I firmly believe their powerful, yet affordable, small sensors will be the engine that enables the transformation of space architectures into the proliferated concept,” she said at the time. “I am excited to join this team and contribute my own industry and government experiences to support Geost’s vision and impressive growth goals.”

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