WASHINGTON — Maxar Technologies, a space technology firm that operates imaging satellites and manufactures spacecraft, has reorganized and eliminated executive positions, the company confirmed Sept. 20

The restructuring comes less than five months after Maxar, previously a publicly traded company, was acquired by the private equity firm Advent International in a $6.4 billion deal.

Maxar is being restructured as two separate businesses: Maxar Space Infrastructure and Maxar Intelligence, a spokesperson told SpaceNews.

Chris Johnson, who runs Maxar’s satellite manufacturing operations, was named CEO of Maxar Space Infrastructure. Daniel Jablonsky, who had been president and CEO of Maxar Technologies since 2019, will lead Maxar Intelligence as interim CEO. 

Maxar Space Infrastructure will oversee spacecraft manufacturing. Maxar Intelligence will be responsible for the satellite imagery business, which was previously known as Earth Intelligence and led by executive vice president Tony Frazier. The company declined to comment on Frazier’s status or whether he has left the company. 

“As part of this reorganization, Maxar reduced headcount by a small amount in some corporate functions,” the company said in a statement. “We thank those individuals for their contributions and wish them well in future endeavors.”

The dual-CEO structure, said Maxar, “enables both businesses to deliver for customers and innovate leading-edge technology with dedicated focus.” The two businesses “will continue to work together on joint programs, such as WorldView Legion.”

WorldView Legion is Maxar’s next generation of high-resolution Earth imaging satellites.

Rendering of Maxar’s WorldView Legion constellation.

The launch of the six-satellite Legion constellation is years behind schedule due to supplier problems and other setbacks. Maxar in recent months has declined to provide updates on when the first Legion satellites will get to orbit. Having these satellites in operation is key to the future of the company, which currently relies on three legacy WorldView and one GeoEye optical imaging satellites. According to industry sources, further delays are expected in the Legion program. 

Jablonsky in an interview in April 2022 said demand for imagery was growing and Maxar expected to face a capacity crunch until the Legion satellites were in operation. When Advent’s acquisition was announced in December, Jablonsky said the new owners intended to invest in two additional Legion satellites, but the company has not provided any updates since. 

Maxar said in the statement that it expects the new structure to help generate more growth. 

“This is an exciting time for both businesses, as demand for space and geospatial solutions continues to grow, and Maxar Space Infrastructure and Maxar Intelligence are well positioned to grow,” the company said. 

Maxar is headquartered in Westminster, Colorado, and manufactures satellites in Palo Alto, California. 

Acquisition by Advent

Industry sources told SpaceNews at the World Satellite Business Week conference in Paris last week that a shakeup at Maxar was expected. In the wake of the private equity acquisition, senior leadership changes should come as no surprise, several industry sources said. 

“This is a somewhat normal restructuring after being bought by a private equity firm,” one industry official said. “They probably found a few ways to get Maxar more focused and efficient in their businesses. And the Legion delays are also likely a factor.”

Maxar in 2022 won a 10-year $3.2 billion contract from the National Reconnaissance Office to provide satellite imagery. However, these sources said, the company’s new owners were disappointed with revenue projections and the slow pace of the Legion satellite program. 

Advent International purchased Maxar for $53 per share, a premium of about 129% over the company’s closing price of about $23.10 on Dec 15, 2022. 

The acquisition followed a period when Maxar’s profile was raised due to the conflict in Ukraine — and the U.S. government’s reliance on the company’s satellites and ground equipment to collect and share images of troop movements and battle damage. 

Even though the conflict served as a prominent use case for commercial imaging satellites and their power to deliver crucial intelligence, experts pointed out that it has not translated into growing sales of imagery and analytics services outside of the Ukraine crisis.

Efforts to diversify

Over the past year, Maxar and other companies in the satellite remote sensing industry have sought to expand their offerings beyond optical imagery, looking to capture a broader spectrum of data from space.

Maxar has actively promoted a new “non-Earth imaging” capability to use its satellites to take pictures of objects in space and sell them commercially, but has not yet announced any contracts for that service. 

The company also has branched out into other sensing phenomenologies such as satellite-based synthetic aperture radar — sensors that can see through clouds — and radio-frequency mapping for the detection of electronic jammers. 

Maxar in February announced a deal with SAR startup Umbra to get dedicated access to the company’s radar imaging constellation. Maxar also acquired radio-frequency mapping startup Aurora Insight, a year after it made a strategic investment in the company.  

The organizational and leadership changes taking place at Maxar are “simply part of doing business” in the wake of being taken private, said Keith Masback, a consultant and investor in the remote sensing industry, and a former National Geospatial Intelligence Agency official. 

“Now that the proverbial axe has fallen, there will be myriad questions about the future of Maxar,” Masback told SpaceNews. “The company plays an important role in national security remote sensing, and its largest customer — the U.S. government — will want to have a clear understanding of plans for the way forward.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...

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...