Capella Space synthetic-aperture radar image of the Chinese National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, the site of opening ceremonies for the 2022 winter Olympics in China. Credit: Capella Space

SAN FRANCISCO – Capella Space is working with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Technical Center (SMDTC) to satisfy Army demand for Earth observation with rapid tasking and delivery of synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) data.

Under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) announced Oct. 21, Capella and the U.S. Army Payload Development Lab will explore applications for SAR through simulation and testing.

“SMDTC is looking forward to this partnership with the team at Capella Space,” Tom Webber, Army SMDTC director, said in a statement. “Capella is the first U.S. company to commercialize SAR and is uniquely positioned to provide mission-critical support to tactical users and advance the Army’s critical mission.”

Capella has established relationships with many U.S. government agencies in the last year, including contracts with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Space Force, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon Space Development Agency. In-Q-Tel, the U.S. intelligence community’s nonprofit investment organization, also is supporting Capella.

“Every day, the United States Armed Forces are tasked with keeping the peace and saving lives across multiple domains in a state of constant change,” Payam Banazadeh, Capella CEO and founder, said in a statement. “You need timely intelligence to drive the best possible outcomes.”

Capella executives declined to comment on whether any funding was associated with the CRADA.

“CRADAs are important because they serve as a vehicle for commercial entities to work closely with government customers in a secure environment and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges they’re facing,” Banazadeh told SpaceNews by email. CRADAs are “often the first step toward establishing an official contract with a government agency,” he added.

Government agencies around the world are key customers for SAR, which can peer through clouds and capture imagery day and night. In addition to the imagery, SAR data can reveal the material properties of objects as well as provide information on moisture, elevation and small changes in the position of objects.

“Multiple U.S. Department of Defense agencies have shown interest in using Capella’s SAR imagery for a variety of purposes, including national security, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, infrastructure and transportation monitoring, and reliable monitoring for indications and warnings of potential natural and security threats,” according to the Capella news release.

The commercial SAR market is growing.

“The U.S. Government is still the largest customer of SAR data, but we are actively building a market for commercial applications that help companies and nongovernmental organizations make better economic decisions,” Banazadeh said.

Capella is working to further expand the market through its Open Data Program. By sharing imagery and data with researchers, nonprofit organizations, application developers and disaster response organizations, Capella hopes to “changes the narrative that SAR is a rare commodity and something only accessible to governments with large budgets,” Banazadeh said. “SAR is more accessible now than it ever has been for the commercial sector. Capella Space is helping to educate and train nongovernment entities on how to integrate SAR data into their broader data strategies.”

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...