China’s Spacety CEO sees future in radar satellites, data fusion

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Spacety, a privately-owned Chinese satellite company founded in 2016 is expanding its product line as it continues in-orbit technology demonstrations. The firm, with 70 employees working in Changsha and Beijing, has nine missions and 15 satellites in orbit. Feng Yang, Spacety CEO and founder, talked with SpaceNews about his plans for small synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites and the origins of the company at the Space Tech Expo Europe.

Why did you establish Spacety?

In China, access to space was very difficult and expensive because you needed a lot of technologies and qualifications. For young people and entrepreneurs, it was almost impossible within the Chinese space system. I wanted to provide easy access to space for the young generation and entrepreneurs who are enthusiastic, who are developing space technologies and innovating.

Is this for entrepreneurs in China or all around the world?

All around the world. If the U.S. government allowed it, I would be happy to provide service for U.S. startups. We can provide the fastest and lowest price with everything included for them.

How would that work?

It’s possible I can have some U.S. customers if the satellite is not launching in China. We could find an Indian satellite to launch the Chinese bus.

You are currently flying an in-orbit demonstration with a ten-kilogram cubesat to test a multispectral imager, laser communications and ThrustMe’s Iodine propulsion system. I understand that mission came together quickly.

Yes. I’m so proud. It was eight months from signing the contract to launching the satellites. That’s not our record. Our record is four months and 21 days from signing the customer to launch for our sixth space mission.

Everybody in this industry does things very slowly. Our strategy is to do the opposite. If you want a big satellite don’t come to us. But if you want to build a small satellite and you want to build it fast, come to us. That’s our strategy to compete with big players.

What comes next?

We’ll continue this in-orbit demonstration service to test technologies for ourselves and for third parties. And we are testing quite a few new technologies including cameras and SAR.

What is your plan for SAR?

We see data as the future for satellite applications. We are building the first SAR satellite for ourselves. In the future, we hope to provide data from our SAR satellites.

Is this a small SAR satellite?

Our SAR satellite is almost the same size as Capella’s and Iceye’s with resolution that is almost the same. In the United States, it’s Capella. In Europe, it’s Iceye. China has to have a miniature SAR. That’s us.

In the past, we launched optical payloads. Optical remote sensing has some limitations. SAR is a very good complement. In our vision for the future, you combine multiple data sources. We want to have a low-cost approach first and gradually improve the performance.