TAMPA, Fla. — Spanish Earth observation satellite provider Satlantis has bought a majority stake in British university spin-out SuperSharp to expand into the thermal imaging market.
SuperSharp is developing a foldable thermal infrared telescope that would enable satellites as small as 12U, or the size of 12 cubesats, to provide images with a 6-meter ground sampling distance.
The technology promises four times better resolution per unit cost compared with satellites currently on the market, according to Satlantis business development manager Ignacio Mares.
He said the undisclosed investment from Satlantis gives SuperSharp the financial and industrial resources needed to deploy an in-orbit demonstrator in 2025, using a satellite platform and launch provider it has yet to secure.
Spun out from University of Cambridge in 2017, SuperSharp employs seven people and will remain an independent company following the investment, under a deal that recently secured British government approval.
Satlantis employs around 80 people, including about 10 at its U.S.-based subsidiary.
The Spanish company builds Earth observation payloads that it sells separately or as part of a whole satellite by using subcontractors to provide the spacecraft chassis.
The manufacturer’s first whole satellite under this arrangement, Armsat-1 for the government of Armenia — the country’s first dedicated satellite — launched last year.
Satlantis produces the majority of a satellite under this arrangement before securing a customer so it can support a quick turnaround, Mares told SpaceNews, and it has another four missions in the pipeline for 2023-2024.
He said the first of these will be a methane-detection satellite called GEISAT, slated to launch on a SpaceX rideshare mission in June for undisclosed customers.
Satlantis currently develops Earth imaging payloads using high-resolution visible (VIS), near infrared (NIR) and short-wave infrared (SWIR) spectrum.
Adding SuperSharp’s technology to its product mix enables Satlantis to offer payloads across a full spectrum of imaging solutions from the visible and near-infrared (VNIR) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to long-wave infrared (LWIR).
Satlantis recently posted 11.6 million euros ($13 million) in revenues for 2022, which it said was a record for the 10-year-old company.