Spire Global Aims To Orbit 25 Smallsats in 2015

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PRAGUE – Spire Global Inc., which in July 2014 raised $25 million in Series A backing from RRE Ventures, Moose Capital, Quihoo and Mitsui & Co. Global Investment, plans to have up to 25 satellites in orbit by the end of this year and 100 or more within three years, Spire Launch Manager Jenny Barna said.

Addressing the ITU Symposium on Small Satellite Regulation here March 2-4, Barna said San Francisco-based Spire, whose total financing is about $29 million, is focusing on maritime vessel tracking using the Automatic Identification System transponders mandated on certain classes of ships.

Another business focus for Spire is providing weather data using GPS radio occultation. The company has launched four cubesats — one aboard a Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rocket and three from the International Space Station

One industry official said Spire satellites would be among the 87 spacecraft launched this fall aboard Spaceflight Industries’ Sherpa canister, to be placed into low Earth orbit as a secondary payload aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket following launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

Barna declined to confirm Spire’s presence on the Sherpa ring.

Addressing an audience including international and national regulators, Barna said it was easy for small-satellite developers to “get defensive” when criticized for not following best-practice guidelines, notably for orbital debris.

“The fact that we say our satellites are disposable does not mean they are unreliable,” Barna said, adding that the Spire satellites typically deorbit within a few years, well within the 25-year guideline that has become an international reference but is not binding unless national governments decide to make it so.