European CubeSat and satellite component manufacturer GomSpace, has shut-down its fledgling Aerial & Maritime business. This news came from an announcement by the company on 16 June 2020. Aerial & Maritime Ltd. was formed in 2016 by an agreement between GomSpace and third-party investors – a significant investor was the Investment Fund for Developing Countries (IFU), Norway. Aerial and Maritime was to provide aircraft and ship tracking services through an 100-strong LEO, CubeSat, constellation built by GomSpace.
GomSpace has made the decision concerning Aerial and Maritime following the the affect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the investment market. Aerial and Maritime was in need of further investment to, but it was decided that this now could not be found. GomSpace had already built eight CubeSats for the constellation which were waiting to be launched. GomSpace will now take ownership of these units, and it is believed that the company will attempt to monetise them in the future.
In comparison to the event in the European space industry, American start-up, PredaSAR Corporation, has announced its plans to launch a 48-unit SAR constellation. PredaSAR was founded in 2019, and in March 2020, announced that it had completed raising US$25 million in seed funding. The company falls under the “Terran Orbital” investment umbrella alongside CubeSat and small-satellite manufacturer, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems.
PredaSAR has contracted with sister company Tyvak for its first two satellites. The company hasn’t released how large its satellites will be, but has stated that they will be larger than its competitors. PredaSAR is reportedly planning to secure launch contracts to begin satellite launches in 2021.
PredaSAR’s primary competitors in the commercial SAR market are the established Iceye, Finalnd, and fellow American company Capella Space, both of whom are flying units which weigh circa~ 100 kg. Another recent entrant to the market is Umbra Lab, California, who are planning a SAR constellation which they expect will utilise 50 kg satellites.
Planet retires RapidEye constellation
Following an announcement at the start of the year, in March 2020, Planet went ahead with its plan to retire its ageing RapidEye satellites. The RapidEye fleet – which Planet acquired in 2015, through its purchase of owner BlackBridge – was launched in 2008. By 2020, the satellites had exceeded their design life by five years. The fleet was made up of five units providing a library of 5 metre resolution imagery of the whole globe.