Former SES CEO joins megaconstellation startup E-Space

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TAMPA, Fla. — Former SES CEO Karim Michel Sabbagh has returned to the space industry to oversee strategy in Europe and the Middle East for E-Space, the connectivity startup plotting a network of hundreds of thousands of satellites.

Sabbagh left SES in April 2018 after four years with the Luxembourg-based satellite operator to head Abu Dhabi-based cybersecurity company DarkMatter.

Karim Michel Sabbagh, E-Space’s managing director of Europe and Middle East. Credit: E-Space

He more recently served as a senior advisor on policy matters and investment strategies in the Middle East, E-Space said, and was also engaged in a think tank and academic activities before joining the startup.

E-Space CEO Greg Wyler, who founded medium Earth orbit broadband operator O3b Networks now owned by SES, said Sabbagh will help “disrupt traditional NewSpace markets” as the startup plots serial satellite production next year.

Sabbagh will support regional corporate development, technical, and manufacturing team activities, the venture said in an Oct. 10 news release.

Florida-headquartered E-Space has Rwanda-backed spectrum filings for 300,000 low Earth orbit satellites, which it says would have significantly smaller cross-sections than other constellations to reduce their environmental impact.

The startup remains cryptic about the size and exact function of these “multi-application communication satellites” in non-geostationary orbit (NGSO).

Sabbagh said E-Space’s “focus is directed on enabling an entirely new class of ubiquitous, real-time communications and Internet of Things services to support everything from basic messaging up to advanced voice, video and data communications.”

SES took an initial stake in O3b in 2009 and took full ownership of the operator in 2016 during Sabbagh’s tenure as CEO.

“I have known Karim since working with SES,” Wyler said in the Oct. 10 news release, “when he had the foresight to see how NGSO systems were going to change the industry.”

In addition to overseeing strategy in Europe and the Middle East, E-Space said Sabbagh will support Wyler in defining key programs, operational actions, and general management functions.

Wyler has been busy expanding E-Space’s leadership team after announcing $50 million in seed financing in February to fund operations into next year.

The venture said in August that it had hired 60 employees, including a chief financial officer and chief satellite systems engineer, with a goal to nearly double its team to 100 before the end of 2022.

After deploying its first three prototype satellites in May, E-Space plans to launch another batch of spacecraft on an undisclosed rocket in the first half of 2023, before moving into an initial phase of serial production.

Wyler also founded NGSO broadband operator Oneweb, which builds its satellites at a high-volume facility in Florida via a joint venture with Airbus.