Capella Space gets ready for primetime as constellation operator
SAN ANTONIO – Capella Space is expanding its staff and placing bulk orders as it begins making the transition from research and development startup to satellite constellation operator.
San Francisco-based Capella launched the first small U.S. radar satellite in December 2018. Capella has not published any imagery from that satellite, a technology demonstration called Denali.
Instead, the company has focused on developing the infrastructure it will need to operate a constellation, including automated satellite tasking, image processing and delivery, billing and customer service. Capella also is establishing its ground infrastructure to allow customers to downlink data directly or to rely on Amazon Web Services to delivery data through the Amazon cloud.
“We are getting ready for primetime,” said Capella CEO Payam Banazadeh.
Capella has raised more than $50 million to date. That money will carry the startup into 2020, when it plans to begin building its constellation of 36 synthetic aperture radar satellites to obtain imagery with a resolution of 50 centimeters and to revisit sites within the hour. Unlike electro optical satellites which require light, radar satellites capture imagery during the day, at night and through clouds.
By the end of this year, Capella plans to launch Sequoia, its first operational satellite. “I want to wow people with Sequoia data,” Banazadeh said. “I want them to say, ‘I can’t believe that image came from a small satellite.’”
Capella has been expanding its staff of about 60 full-time employees and 15 contractors. In April Joerg Hermann joined Capella. Hermann led efforts to create a commercial market for satellite radar data in Germany where he led Infoterra Ltd., a geospatial data supplier.
In February, Capella announced it hired Scott Soenen, vice president of product engineering, Matt Wood, vice president of go-to-market and business strategy, and Dan Brophy, U.S. government services vice president. Christian Lenz, Capella’s engineering vice president, joined the firm in 2018.
Capella has been ordering components in bulk for its operational constellation. Capella has ordered 12 attitude control systems from Blue Canyon Technologies. Capella also is buying Maxwell radio frequency thrusters for in-space propulsion from Phase Four.