Capella Space SAR satellite
Capella Space launched its first tech demo SAR satellite in December 2018, with plans to ultimately operate a 36-satellite constellation. Credit: Capella Space

LOGAN, Utah – Capella Space, a company building a constellation of radar satellites, announced an agreement Aug. 5 to rely on Addvalue’s Inter-Satellite Data Relay System and Inmarsat satellites to speed up satellite tasking.

Radar satellite data is extremely time-sensitive. If it weren’t customers could simply wait until morning or until clouds moved out of an area to obtain electro-optical imagery, Payam Banazadeh, Capella CEO and founder, told SpaceNews.

With Addvalue terminals installed on its radar satellites, Capellas will have constant access to uplink and downlink services. The agreement is designed to give Capella an advantage in the competitive Earth observation industry, Banazadeh said.

Addvalue Innovations of Singapore builds satellite terminals to send and receive data through Inmarsat’s constellation of geosynchronous L-band communications satellites and Inmarsat’s Broadband Global Area Network.

Capella has raised more than $50 million to build a constellation of 36 synthetic aperture radar satellites to capture imagery with a resolution of 50 centimeters and revisit sites hourly.

To obtain satellite data, Capella customers will send tasking requests through a web application that routes the orders through the Inmarsat network, according to the news release issued at the Small Satellite Conference here. Details of the request, including the location, time and frequency, will flow through the network to the next available satellite. That satellite will obtain imagery and return it along with associated metadata to Capella’s ground station network within minutes, according to the release.

Capella launched its first radar satellite, a technology demonstration, in December 2018. Capella has not publicly released any imagery from that spacecraft. Capella’s first operational satellite, Sequoia, is scheduled to launch in January 2020, Banazadeh said.

Because constellation operators generally wait for satellites to pass over one of their network ground stations to uplink tasking orders, customers often wait four to eight hours for imagery, Banazadeh said.

“In a world where you can send an email in seconds, it should not take up to eight hours to task a satellite and receive the data,” Banazadeh said in a statement. “This bottleneck doesn’t meet today’s business standards.”

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...