Top Managers Fired at Silicon Valley Satellite Maker

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Tomas Svitek. Credit: Photo courtesy of Stellar Exploration
Tomas Svitek. Credit: Photo courtesy of Stellar Exploration

SAN FRANCISCO — Canopus Systems LLC, a small-satellite startup in Silicon Valley, underwent a shake-up in early October when Chief Executive Tomas Svitek was fired and Chief Operating Officer Megan Nunes resigned.

Established in early 2013 to develop and manufacture inexpensive small satellites, Canopus of Mountain View, California, is affiliated with Dauria Aerospace, which has its headquarters in Munich and offices in Mountain View and in Skolkovo, the high-technology hub near Moscow.

Dauria Aerospace founder and President Mikhail Kokorich confirmed Svitek’s departure. “We value our collaboration with Tomas, who is an excellent engineering mind, with a good sense of disruptive technologies in the satellite industry,” Kokorich said by email. “As Canopus has now reached its next stages of strategy development, we are currently undergoing a process of optimizing the management structure of the company.”

Kokorich declined to say who would replace Svitek and Nunes. Svitek also declined to answer questions but confirmed he no longer works for Canopus.

Svitek remains president of Stellar Exploration Inc. of San Louis Obispo, California, a company focused on scientific and space exploration projects, including the Planetary Society’s LightSail, a solar-powered spacecraft scheduled to launch in 2016.

Space industry officials offered a variety of explanations for the shake-up, which claimed the jobs of four Canopus Systems engineers in addition to Svitek and Nunes, reducing the firm’s overall workforce from 25 to 19 employees.

Canopus was experiencing some engineering problems and delays in its satellite development projects, one official said. The official added, however, that this type of problem is common in space-related startups.

Canopus is focused on developing and deploying its own Earth observation constellations, Kokorich said. In June, Dauria launched two maritime surveillance cubesats, Perseus-M1 and Perseus-M2, aboard a Russian Dnepr rocket. Perseus-M1 and Perseus-M2 carry Automatic Identification System payloads designed by Canopus to monitor maritime traffic for various customers including the Russian Ministry of Transportation.