TAMPA, Fla. — A week after calling off a SPAC merger intended to raise $420 million for a constellation of commercial weather radar satellites, Tomorrow.io said March 16 its two pathfinder spacecraft passed their critical design review.
John Springmann, Tomorrow.io’s vice president for space, said the successful review clears the way for satellite production and keeps the operational constellation on track to start launching in 2023.
The commercial weather data provider is building the radar and subsystems for a constellation it says will improve the forecasts it already provides Uber, Delta Air Lines and other businesses affected by weather patterns.
The Boston-based company is using Astro Digital’s Corvus-XL platform for two demonstration satellites that Springmann said are slated to launch in the fourth quarter of this year with a provider he declined to disclose.
“We remain on track, and closely tracking supply chain disruptions that might affect our timeline,” Springmann told SpaceNews.
“Even in a worst case scenario, we do not anticipate material delays in those launches.”
He said the company also continues to expect its operational constellation of around 30 small satellites will start being deployed in the fourth quarter in 2023, and complete the following year.
Springmann said the critical design review was for its two pathfinder satellites, which demonstrate key radar technology and other components that are critical for the mission.
“The [operational] radar system is similar, and the purpose of the pathfinders is to demonstrate not only the radar system, but also the end-to-end system of radar measurements through assimilation into weather models,” he said.
Tomorrow.io conducted the CDR in partnership with the U.S. Air Force, which through the AFVentures Strategic Funding Increase program is supporting the development of the company’s first four satellites in a $19.3 million contract.
“We completed CDRs at the lower level elements of the system over multiple days and sessions, and culminated in a single system-level CDR which was briefed to the Air Force customer,” Springmann said.
The precursor subsystem-level CDRs were completed over multiple sessions between December and January, he added, and the final system-level CDR was presented to the customer remotely after no specific issues were identified.
Plans that Tomorrow.io announced Dec. 7 to fuel its expansion plans by merging with Pine Technology Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), were nixed March 7 when they called off the deal because of unfavorable market conditions.
The merger would have listed Tomorrow.io’s shares on the Nasdaq stock exchange and valued the company at $1.2 billion.
“Given our previous funding rounds and revenue growth, the company is and has been well funded to pursue its plan since announcing the constellation last year,” Tomorrow.io CEO co-founder and chief strategy officer Rei Goffer said.
“To further fuel growth and expansion across other parts of the business, the SPAC was one possible route. As the market conditions have changed and SPAC became a less attractive option we decided to choose a different route and stay private for the time being.”
While geopolitical tensions following Russia’s war in Ukraine and the potential for rising interest rates cause uncertainty in the financial markets, questions also linger over the use of SPACs to grow space businesses.
Tomorrow.io, which said sales more than doubled year-on-year to $19 million for 2021, received $77 million last year in a funding round led by private equity firm Stonecourt Capital.