Satellite radar startups are arguing over the importance of the commercial market

PARIS – Satellite radar startups differ on how much of their resources should be moved to meet expected demand from commercial customers and away from governments, which today provide the bulk of the revenue.

Executives at synthetic aperture radar (SAR) companies Capella Space, Umbra and Synspective discussed divergent growth strategies Sept. 16 during Global Satellite Business Week.

Payam Banazadeh, CEO and founder of Capella, said search and rescue providers should focus their ability to serve “today’s top 10 clients,” primarily in the defense and intelligence market.

“And you have to make sure that you are the only one serving to the top 10 customers and that you are the preferred provider,” he said.

“You don’t do that. You don’t have a chance of making it. Zero.”

It is especially necessary for early-stage companies to focus on serving high-paying clients to increase market size, Banzadeh said.

Joe Morrison, Umbra’s vice president of commercial products, said he doesn’t fully agree with that approach.

He said Umbra is looking to use the infrastructure needed to serve large clients to support smaller innovative companies seeking to increase market share.

If search and rescue providers “don’t treat these customers with respect and focus on their use cases, you’re building for the past,” Morrison said.

“And those same 10 customers you want to focus on today, they look at those companies to see what’s coming in the future — and these companies are disrupted because providers like us treat them as a distraction, but they are not.”

Panzada replied that the satellite operators have limited capacity, and “the capacity will run out very quickly [at] Places people want to see.”

He added: “If you have an infinite amount of capacity, which none of us do and none of us will do, you don’t have to choose, because then you saturate your capacity for government customers and there is redundant capacity that you can use.

“Well, that’s not really how SAR horoscopes work.”

Benazadeh said space news In an email that its strategy is not mutually exclusive with providing images to commercial clients, noting agreements it has already made in the commercial marketplace.

but, To win in the search and rescue market, you must dominate the existing market first before trying other business models that may consume resources from your core customers.

he added: Customers are more concerned with the stability of their data provider than with experimental business models. The worst thing that could happen is if a data provider goes bankrupt or decides that their old business model can no longer keep them afloat and change.

Neither company has disclosed specific information about how they price their services.

Panzadeh said at the session that Umbra’s approach is a bet that lower Saudi riyal prices will significantly increase demand in the commercial market.

According to Benazadeh, government customers are less sensitive to price. Defense and intelligence markets have other variables that you care more about, such as reliability and quality.

Panzadeh said he hopes Umbra will be successful in its strategy, “because if it succeeds we will follow it.”

Capella had seven satellites in orbit as of April, and Plans announced recently To launch an unspecified number of next-generation spacecraft called Acadia starting early next year.

Umbra currently has three satellites in orbit and expects to deploy two more before the end of this year. Morrison said there are “several more issues coming up next year” to expand its fleet.

Motoyuki Arai, CEO of Japanese Synspective Launched its first commercial satellite On Rocket Lab’s Electron rover on September 15, it said its strategy lies somewhere between Capella and Umbra.

Synspective first focuses on government clients to build volume, then plans to branch out into the commercial market with a business that relies on providing solutions rather than purely data.

While the Japanese government is currently its largest customer, it expects to expand internationally now that COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

Synspective, which has been testing its services on two experimental satellites also launched by Rocket Lab, announced on September 16 that it had established contact with its first commercial spacecraft, called StriX-1.

The startup plans to deploy four more satellites by the end of 2023.

By the end of 2030, it expects to operate a constellation of 30 satellites, although it has not yet announced a launch contract for any of its upcoming spacecraft.

This article was updated on September 17th with additional comments from Capella CEO Payam Banazadeh.

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