Tethers Unlimited, a small but innovative space technology company with about 85 employees based in Bothell, has been acquired by a company that’s focused on garnering high-tech space contracts from NASA, the Department of Defense and U.S. intelligence agencies.
Tethers founder and CEO Rob Hoyt is now president of a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amergint Technology Holdings, based in Colorado Springs.
“For a number of years we’ve been trying to figure out how to be more successful in bringing new technologies to market,” he said in an interview. “The Amergint people have extensive relationships with a lot of interesting customers. Already they are starting to open doors for us.”
Terms of the sale were not disclosed.
Hoyt said joining with Amergint combines the Colorado company’s technology for radio communication from the ground to on-orbit satellites with Tethers’ radio technology that’s on board the satellites.
The software in the Tethers radios — used to transmit large amounts of data back to earth, either mission data or metrics on the satellite’s performance — can be rapidly tweaked even while in orbit.
Amergint, founded in 2008, employs about 100 people in Colorado, mostly engineers, and provides software technology that captures and processes satellite communication data for military, intelligence and commercial space missions.
Last month, Amergint agreed to acquire Precision Optics, a unit of Collins Aerospace based in Danbury, Conn., that provides precision electro-optical systems for national-security space missions. Its acquisition will add expertise in imaging and surveillance technologies.
Hoyt said that the shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging for Tethers but that his team of engineers has coped better than expected. They’ve been able to keep busy with design and analysis work from home, while putting some hardware testing on hold, he said.
A few Tethers engineers working on critical defense technology projects have been exempted from stay-home orders and allowed to work in the labs. Others can also work remotely with the satellite radios in the labs, turning functions on and off and resetting the software from home.
Hoyt said that in addition to the collaboration with Amergint on satellite radio development work, Tethers will continue work on its other research projects — including a space-propulsion engine that uses water as fuel, a spiderlike robot to build large structures in space, and a 3-D printer.
“My marching orders are to continue doing what we’ve been doing,” Hoyt said.