Those who have been following the commercial use of space already know that we’re in an incredibly exciting time in the field’s growth. More than ever before, companies across the globe are providing us with new and innovative ways to utilize space in order to serve a variety of needs here on Earth. Now, Payam Banazadeh, CEO and founder of Capella Space, has announced that his company has reached a historic milestone. It has now opened its commercial operations, meaning that its satellite imagery will be available to customers around the world. Read on to understand what that means and the impact it is poised to have.
To understand the significance of this new announcement from Payam Banazadeh and his team, it’s first important to understand what the company’s work is all about. To do so, we’ll need to take a look at the world of satellite imaging and the evolution it’s currently undergoing.
Traditionally, satellite imaging was conducted through the use of optical imaging satellites. These satellites function in a similar way to a photographic camera — relying on the collection of external light sources, namely the Sun, for their operation. While these satellites have been integrated into a variety of applications, such as mapping software, they also have some serious limitations that interfere with their ability to provide continuous and reliable imaging data. Primarily, the usefulness of these satellites can break down when an image of the dark side of the Earth is required, or when tasked with imaging a portion of the planet’s surface that’s obscured by cloud cover. In both of these cases, a traditional optical satellite is practically useless.
That’s one of the underlying reasons behind the creation of Capella Space. To address the shortcomings of optical imaging tech, the company has turned to another technology known as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). SAR satellites emit their own energy that is then reflected off the Earth’s surface and collected by a receiver. The energy can penetrate cloud cover and functions the same regardless of time of day. That means that these satellites can be much better suited for applications that require imaging on a continuous basis or under conditions in which an optical imaging satellite would be of little use.
Lead up to announcement
One of the major goals of the CEO’s company has been to democratize the use of satellite data. It has championed a vision of the world where conservationists, economists, government officials, and many more would all have access to important information about changing surface conditions on our planet. The recent announcement about the launch of commercial operations is helping to transform that idea into a reality but before we analyze just what that means, we should first look to the process that has led up to this moment.
The company was founded in 2016 and was partially inspired by the founder’s conviction that the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 should not be repeated. After search and rescue teams were unable to locate the missing flight, the entrepreneur felt there was a need for a continuous and accurate planetary monitoring system. In the years since, he has worked to create his company, build out its capacity, garner interest from investors, and partner with early adopters in order to bring that idea to life.
A major milestone was reached in August when the company launched its satellite, Capella-2, making it the first American SAR operator. Since that time, the company has been calibrating its capabilities, testing features, and rolling out its collaboration with global sales partners. After testing with thousands of images and countless adjustments and improvements, the technology is finally ready for its public launch.
Beginning commercial operations
The launch of the company’s commercial operations means that customers around the world will now be able to request satellite imagery through both direct sales and the company’s reseller partner network. The reseller partner network encompasses more than 40 organizations around the world to which customers can go to make imaging requests. The network opens the company’s operations to an international market and allows a broader customer base to access the new and exciting technology.
Customers can also place on-demand tasking orders in the company’s self-service web application. The application represents a first in the SAR industry, allowing customers to quickly and easily navigate an automated system for placing orders. The nature of the system allows for customer request fulfillment in a matter of hours, rather than the days it takes most other satellite companies to fill requests. It also allows for a marked security improvement over other satellite request systems. This is because customers can submit their requests without concern about a human agent reading the request prior to fulfillment. Instead, tasking requests can be relayed to the company’s anonymous and secure rapid tasking system.
Expansion in use
The company has already shown plenty of potential for its technology in the months leading up to the above announcement. Test images have showcased the satellite’s ability to image with incredibly precise resolution — as high as 50cm x 50cm — and continuously monitor surface-level events as they’ve unfolded, day or night. This work has already provided benefits to government defense and intelligence agencies, who have worked with the company as early adopters.
Now, as the company opens its doors to the general public, it anticipates a significant expansion in use. Potential use cases have been cited as being of benefit to the field of transportation logistics and environmental conservation efforts — two areas where timely data about ground conditions can be vital to create informed action. Though these are likely to be a focus of general public usage moving forward, this is also a time for the company to let the public voice its opinion through actual use cases, marking an interesting new era in its development.
While the commercial space field has been unfolding for some time now, the recent announcement by Payam Banazadeh and Capella Space serves to showcase the rapid increase in our current technological capabilities. By opening the door to its groundbreaking SAR satellite technology, the company is helping to usher in an unprecedented democratization of imaging data. Keep an eye on the company’s efforts moving forward to see how this new phase in its institutional history will play out and influence other exciting developments in the near future.