ORLANDO, Fla. — Israeli geospatial analytics firm Asterra is considering ordering its own satellite as it struggles to compete with government agencies for images, an executive said Feb. 22.

Speaking on a SpaceCom conference panel here, chief technology officer Lauren Guy said Asterra has been resisting its own spacecraft since he co-founded the company five years ago.

“As a data company, I don’t want to own hardware,” Guy said, because it is much easier and cheaper to task a publicly available satellite and provide solutions from its data.

“But capacity is an issue,” he said. “We work mainly with governmental space agencies and [they] don’t care about commercial companies. They don’t care about SLAs [service level agreements],” he added, and “for me it was very surprising.”

Asterra’s analytical solutions are based on synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data sourced from three satellites: Japan’s Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2, and the Saocom 1A and 1B radar spacecraft that Argentina operates jointly with Italy.

Its offering includes tools for inspecting soil moisture near canal levees and flood defenses.

However, Guy said the priorities of space agencies lie elsewhere, such as border defense needs that have been growing in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine, leaving little room for Asterra’s commercial growth ambitions.

For instance, he said Asterra has solutions for detecting oil and gas leaks but the company cannot bring them to market because they require daily images.

“We have to fight for every acquisition,” he told SpaceNews on the conference’s sidelines, “not with other commercial companies, but with space agencies that want to use the satellite.”

He said Asterra is in “advanced talks” about ordering a satellite that could be deployed in 2025 or 2026.

“We came to the conclusion that we have to hold our own destiny and to hold our own future,” he said, “because otherwise, we won’t scale.”

California-based hyperspectral imaging startup Orbital Sidekick came to the same conclusion, its CEO and co-founder Dan Katz said during the same panel.

With access to space increasing and small satellite costs falling, Katz said “we don’t need to raise $500 million to launch satellites anymore. You can launch satellites relatively affordably, and then you can get access to your own capacity [without] competing.”

He said latency is also a big issue for the Earth observation industry.

“If you’re a pipeline operator, you want to know as soon as possible if your line is leaking, or if there’s a security threat, so not being beholden to third-party data providers is critical.”

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...