Iceye synthetic aperture radar image of Mt. Fuji, the active volcano 100 kilometers southwest of Tokyo. Credit: Iceye

SAN FRANCISCO – Iceye is expanding to serve the Japanese market with the support of Makoto Higashi, the former Japan Space Imaging Corp. CEO and president, who will serve as Iceye’s general manager in Japan.

Within a year, Iceye plans to open an office in Tokyo and begin serving Japanese government and commercial customers with a 10-person staff, the company said in a June 23 news release.

After spending 40 years in industry, Higashi, who retired from Japan Space Imaging in 2019 after reaching the corporation’s official retirement age, told SpaceNews by email that he joined Iceye because he still “wanted to contribute to the advancement of the satellite data market in Japan.”

When Higashi met Iceye leaders, he said he “felt an immediate and deep synchronization” and “was enthused to join” the Finnish startup.

Since 2018 when Iceye began operating the first small synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite, the company has established offices in Poland, the United Kingdom, Spain and, most recently, a manufacturing facility in Southern California.

Government agencies are important SAR customers because they are adept at making sense of radar imagery and data. Higashi said he is confident Iceye can withstand the scrutiny of government customers by offering excellent “performance, reliability and security.” With its “well demonstrated track record of customer deliveries,” Higashi called Iceye “the right fit for the Japanese SAR data market.”

Japan is the world’s second largest Earth observation data market, Higashi said. Iceye wide-area imaging Scan imagery will be particularly applicable to monitor the seas surrounding Japan, he added.

“What makes Iceye‘s offering special for Japan is the amount of data available and in particular how frequently imaging can be delivered,” Higashi said. “This is especially useful for natural catastrophe response, but also for frequent monitoring and the active maintenance of highly developed infrastructure.”

During a career of more than 40 years, Higashi also served as general manager for geospatial intelligence at Hitachi Ltd.’s Defense Systems Business Unit and as vice president for sales for NTT Data GC’s Satellite Data Image Business.

Iceye’s Japanese customers include Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance. Iceye supplies the company with global flood monitoring data.

“Iceye’s advanced technology in SAR image acquisition and near real-time data analysis brought our long-term business goals to reality and even has potential to transform beyond our claim service operation,” Hidenori Kobayashi, Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire insurance deputy general manager, said in a statement.

Iceye has launched 10 satellites to date, however, not all the satellites continue to operate. The company operates SAR satellites in its own constellation and dedicated missions for customers.

Iceye has raised $152 million to date. In 2020, Iceye reported signed contracts valued at $50 million.

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...