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Ukrainian to sell stake in US space firm Firefly Aerospace

Noosphere Venture Partners, a space technology investment firm founded and controlled by Ukrainian entrepreneur Max Polyakov, plans to sell its approximately 50% stake in US space launch start-up Firefly Aerospace at the request of the US government, Firefly and Noosphere both confirmed on 30 December.

Noosphere intends to hire an investment banking firm to help with the sale, which was first reported by Bloomberg. Until the transaction is completed, the US government plans to limit Firefly's operations at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, Firefly said.

Noosphere said the divestiture request came from the interagency US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews whether foreign investment transactions would harm US national security. While Noosphere did not say what specifically prompted the request, it alluded to fears that Russia is preparing to further invade Ukraine. Noosphere and Polyakov “understand that CFIUS's actions come amid rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia”, the firm said. The US Treasury Department, which chairs CFIUS, did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Based in Cedar Park, Texas, Firefly is developing a family of launch and in-space vehicles. Its initial vehicle, the Alpha rocket, underwent its first flight test in September and is designed to serve the growing market for small satellites. The company was valued at more than USD1 billion during a May 2021 fundraiser.

Firefly and Noosphere have partnered with the US government for more than five years, Noosphere said. During that period, Firefly received contracts from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the US Air Force, and NASA, and has been granted access to a space launch complex at Vandenberg through a multi-year lease.

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