Balloon Surveillance Startup to List in $350 Million SPAC Deal
World View, a company that specializes in near-space balloon surveillance technology, is reportedly nearing a merger with Leo Holdings Corp. II, a special purpose acquisition company. The deal could value World View at more than $350 million. The company uses high-altitude balloons to provide surveillance and intelligence, as well as communications and scientific research capabilities. It has completed more than 115 stratospheric flights, including five heavy, full-mass tests over the past seven years, and its customers include NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US government, and private companies.
The merger with Leo (NYSE: LHC) would provide World View with access to the public markets and additional capital to further its growth. The deal is expected to be completed in the first quarter of this year, according to people familiar with the matter.
World View has developed a remotely operated stratospheric vehicle called the Stratollite®, which can carry commercial, scientific, and government payloads to the near-space environment. The balloon has precision landing and payload recovery capabilities, as well as an altitude control system that allows for point-to-point navigation over large distances and persistent flight over specific areas. It can operate at altitudes up to 75,000 ft (23 km).
The company has attracted interest from the US military, which has been exploring the potential uses of high-altitude balloons for years. In 2019, the Pentagon conducted surveillance tests using high-altitude balloons made by World View's partner, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC). SNC will also provide World View's high-altitude balloons and operations to the UK for surveillance and reconnaissance.
World View's merger with Leo follows a wave of other startups in the space industry going public via special purpose acquisition companies, including Astra, Momentus, and Rocket Lab. These companies aim to leverage the growing demand for satellite launches, space-based internet connectivity, and other space-related technologies.