EOI Space is preparing to launch a constellation of Stingray satellites to gather ultra-high-resolution Earth imagery from very low Earth orbit. Credit: EOI Space

SAN FRANCISCO – EOI Space, the Earth-observation startup formerly known as Earth Observant, attracted its first major customer for ultra-high-resolution imagery drawn from a constellation of satellites destined for very low Earth orbit.

NTT Data, part of the Tokyo-based technology company NTT Group, is acquiring 2.5 percent of EOI plus exclusive rights to sell EOI satellite imagery in Japan, one of the world’s largest Earth-observation markets.

NTT Data is the first partner to sign up for priority access to EOI imagery and services. EOI plans to work with other organizations and governments across the globe, but the NTT Data contract is an important one.

“That contract we have with NTT alone makes us profitable,” Christopher Thein, EOI CEO and co-founder, told SpaceNews.

EOI is preparing to send its first Stingray satellite into very low Earth orbit in early 2024 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rideshare flight. Five more EOI satellites are scheduled to follow on SpaceX flights within one year.

In 2023, NTT Data will establish a secure access facility in Japan to downlink data from the Stringray constellation. NTT Data expects to begin acquiring satellite imagery from EOI in December 2024.

Through added-value services like imagery analysis based on artificial intelligence, NTT Data forecasts sales related to its pact with EOI to exceed 10 billion yen ($72.4 million) by 2028, according to a Nov. 25 NTT Data news release. Most sales will come from defense, public safety, and disaster management applications, the release added.

“By utilizing EOI Space’s Stingray constellation, we will be able to accumulate large amounts of very high-resolution imagery in our data center and analyze it locally,” Hideyuki Nakamura, NTT Data executive manager, said in a statement. “Using our latest AI algorithms, we will provide value-added products to our customers by extracting the differences from past and newly collected data to detect anomalies. In addition, we will be able to expand the use of EOI Space’s imagery into various disaster prevention systems and facility maintenance projects that will be developed in the future, creating new products that improve resiliency.”

Extensive onboard processing will allow EOI Stingray satellites to deliver data rapidly.

“People are going after onboard compute,” Thein said. “We are going after it in a much bigger way. We will have a cluster of multiple devices on the spacecraft.”

EOI, based in Louisville, Colorado, was founded in 2017 to provide government and commercial customers with Earth imagery.

“I look forward to serving the commercial market, but we are more focused on defense and national intelligence from the get-go because those are the customers that buy the most data and want, specifically, the highest resolution,” Thein said.

Satellites traveling in very low Earth orbit require propulsion to offset atmospheric drag. EOI developed its own Hall-effect thruster for its 330-kilogram satellites.

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...