(Image credit: Mattel/SpaceX via collectSPACE.com)
SpaceX rockets and spacecraft will soon come with a new tag: Made by Mattel.
The global toy company has entered into a multi-year agreement with Elon Musk‘s commercial spaceflight firm to create and market toys inspired by SpaceX’s launch vehicles (opens in new tab). The first products under the partnership will be released in 2023 as part of Mattel’s Matchbox line of die-cast cars, as well as through Mattel’s collaboration and direct-to-consumer platform, Mattel Creations.
The collaboration is SpaceX‘s first-ever deal with a worldwide toy company. “At SpaceX, we believe that a future in which humanity is out among the stars is fundamentally more exciting than one in which we are not,” Brian Bjelde, vice president at SpaceX, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Mattel to help inspire the next generation of space explorers and enthusiasts.”
The announcement was made on International Moon Day, the 53rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 first moon landing. Among the vehicles that SpaceX is currently developing is a version of its Starship spacecraft for use as a lander (opens in new tab) under NASA’s Artemis program and the next missions to the lunar surface.
The news also came on the eve of San Diego Comic Con, where Mattel is among the exhibitors.
“We take pride in our ability to create products and experiences that honor cultural moments and inspire humankind,” said Nick Karamanos, SVP Entertainment Partnerships at Mattel. “As space exploration advances more quickly than ever before, we are thrilled to work with SpaceX and help spark limitless play patterns for the space explorer in all kids.”
No details were released about what specific SpaceX sets were coming next year, other than the Mattel Creations’ line would include “elevated collectibles.”
Although a first for SpaceX — the company previously only licensed a model shop (opens in new tab) to create desktop versions of some of its vehicles — this is not Mattel’s first entrance into the world of space travel and exploration, or even SpaceX missions.
Earlier this year, the toy company collaborated with the International Space Station National Lab to send two Barbie dolls to the orbiting outpost (opens in new tab) to encourage girls to consider careers in aerospace and engineering. Mattel’s also created Barbie dolls styled after real-life astronauts and cosmonauts Sally Ride (opens in new tab), Samantha Cristoforetti (opens in new tab) and Anna Kikina (opens in new tab), as well as NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson (opens in new tab).
Under its Hot Wheels brand, Mattel has worked with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to produce miniatures of NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance Mars rovers (opens in new tab). The company also celebrated the launch of a Tesla Roadster on the inaugural flight of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket by releasing Hot Wheels toy versions (opens in new tab) of Musk’s far-flung electric sports car.
Matchbox has also sold space-related vehicles, dating back decades. In recent years, the brand’s toy cars have included NASA’s Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV) (opens in new tab) and, as part of its Sky Busters line of aircraft, a die-cast version of Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser (opens in new tab) small spaceplane.
At San Diego Comic-Con, which begins Thursday (July 21), Mattel is reintroducing Major Matt Mason, an astronaut action figure from the late 1960’s. The refreshed spaceman is part of Mattel Creations’ “Back in Action” collectible set.
Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of “Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.