Spire Lemur cubesat
Seraphim was an early investor in Spire's satellite constellation, which is set for a $475 million boost following a SPAC merger this summer. Credit: Spire

WASHINGTON — Spire Global announced March 11 that it has signed a deal to host reconnaissance payloads from a defense contractor on its cubesat constellation.

Spire said that KeyW Holding Corp. will place a number of its next-generation intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads on Spire’s cubesats. The companies did not disclose the terms of the agreement, including the number of payloads involved or the value of the contract.

The payloads are intended to provide in-orbit validation for other applications. They are part of KeyW’s new Innovative Space, or InSpace, business, which the company says is “leading the design and development of next generation satellite payloads and ground processing systems” but about which it has disclosed few other details.

“Spire has a reliable, proven and cost-effective capability through which we intend to demonstrate our speed and innovation delivering high-priority intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance solutions to our core customers,” Bill Weber, chief executive of KeyW, said in a statement.

KeyW primarily does business with the national security community, including the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and the Defense Department. Its work in geospatial intelligence, one of several business lines, has primarily focused on airborne collection systems rather than satellites.

The deal is part of an effort by Spire to sell payload space on its satellites to government and commercial customers. “The KeyW InSpace initiative is the first of what will be many opportunities for Spire’s Orbital Services to provide fast and cost-effective access to space that comes from using the most scalable satellite platform available today,” Peter Platzer, chief executive of Spire, said in a statement.

Platzer, in a recent interview, emphasized Spire’s commitment to flying third-party hosted payloads on its satellites. The company recently offered to fly 20 payloads on its satellites within 12 months for 10 million euros.

“We can leverage our manufacturing prowess and sustained, continued development and production of satellites” for those customers, he said. “This gives us the ability to have a platform upon which you can add multiple capabilities, some which might be built by us but some which might not be.”

This deal comes as Spire is placing new emphasis on the U.S. military as a customer for its services. The company announced March 5 that it hired Paul Damphousse, a former Marine who served as chief of advanced concepts for the former National Security Space Office, to lead its national security business development work at its Spire Federal business unit.

Platzer said in that interview that among the capabilities it wants to offer to the Pentagon is the ability to host its payloads on Spire satellites, like the KeyW deal. “This ability to launch a substantial number of payloads in a very short period time for, in Pentagon terms, insanely low cost, is something where we have seen a tremendous amount of interest,” he said.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...