WASHINGTON – EOS Data Analytics (EOS), an Earth imagery processing and analysis company, plans to begin launching high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites by 2022 as its owner Noosphere Venture Partners takes another step toward its goal of creating a vertically integrated space powerhouse.
Many people know Noosphere Ventures, a Silicon Valley investment firm, for the lifeline it provided in 2017 to Firefly Aerospace when the small launch vehicle developer was running out of money. Other Noosphere Ventures portfolio companies are less well known and some remain in stealth mode.
For about six years, Noosphere Ventures has been working methodically to create a vertically integrated holding that includes firms capable of producing satellites and sensors, launching satellites, and analyzing and disturbing data.
“It’s not about satellites, it’s about constellations and constellation management to create a successful business case,” said Max Polyakov, Noosphere Ventures managing partner. It could take 20 to 25 years to build the type of company he envisions, Polyakov added.
In 2015 Noosphere Ventures established EOS, a company focused on processing and analyzing Earth observation data, to learn about the market and customer needs.
Two years later, Noosphere invested in Firefly, a firm whose launch capability is “perfectly sized to deploy constellations of remote sensing satellites into dedicated orbits needed for rapid revisit,” said William Woods, Noosphere Ventures entrepreneur in residence.
Now, Noosphere is “focusing on everything in between, which is constellations and other systems,” Polyakov said. “SAR is a very sexy area that has not been disrupted yet. We have been working on this quietly for a year and a half.”
Space Electric Thruster Systems, another Noosphere company, will supply propulsion for the small SAR satellites.
“All the work is feeding into this remote sensing venture,” Woods said. “The big picture is finally coming together.”
Noosphere’s radar startup, EOS SAR, plans to launch a constellation of small satellites weighing about 200 kilograms with 3.6-meter deployable antennas to gather imagery with a resolution of 25-centimeters per pixel. EOS SAR plans to offer customers imagery and data in three modes: Stripmap, Spotlight and Interferometric, a technique often used to create maps and digital elevation models.
“We believe that’s what government and commercial customers need,” Polyakov said.
A single Firefly could launch three or four EOS SAR satellites, he added. Plus, the launch vehicle deployment mechanisms will be sized to fit the SAR satellites. “There will be deep integration,” Polyakov said.
EOS already has 40 to 45 people working around the world on data analytics, SAR satellites, sensors and antenna design, Polyakov said. “We have already done enough so we will get the right strategic partnerships, which will help us evolve even faster,” he added.
EOS SAR says on its website it will launch its first satellite in 2022 and begin commercial operations in 2023. The company might even beat that schedule but Polyakov said he wants to be careful not to overpromise and disappoint customers.