Launching Capella Space’s Commercial Operations

Since we founded Capella Space four years ago, our team has worked around the clock to design, build, and launch an innovative SAR satellite that will allow organizations to access SAR data on demand. Today we are announcing that we’re officially open for commercial operations — an exciting next step in our journey to making SAR data more accessible. In addition to extensive system readiness testing, we are proud to announce that we hold the first & only Commercial FCC license for a US designed and operated SAR provider. Our license covers Capella-2 as well as a set of future satellites in our planned constellation. Being open for commercial operations means that between our direct sales and reseller partner network, we’re ready to distribute our high-quality SAR imagery to customers in almost every country.

Delivering the highest-quality SAR data

We’ve been working hard to get to this point. Since launching Capella-2 in late August, we’ve been calibrating the satellite and running tests to make sure our SAR data is high resolution, high quality, and low noise. We’ve now run thousands of images through our quality assurance program and we’re satisfied that we are providing the best quality to our customers. We’ve also been downlinking imagery to measure the speed at which tasking requests can be completed, as well as the security of our platform and those of our partners. These measures are critically important, as speed to insight has significant value for our customers.

Providing an intuitive, user-friendly platform

We’ve been working with customers to ensure our systems are primed and proven for commercial deployment. This process involved testing our various imaging modes across different timelines and geographies. We included a wide variety of testers so we could ensure our platform offers an intuitive web experience that makes SAR accessible and easy even if our customers aren’t radar specialists. Thanks to feedback from these early adopters, we have already started working on a list of helpful features and product improvements that will benefit future generations of Capella customers.

Opening Capella’s new manufacturing facilities and mission control center

As our team prepared to open for commercial operations, we also expanded into two new satellite manufacturing facilities in San Francisco, California, and Louisville, Colorado. The facilities total approximately 40,000 square feet and meet the highest security standards.

The manufacturing facilities contain two cleanrooms for satellite assembly, multiple avionics assembly and test stations, three thermal test chambers, one thermal vacuum chamber large enough to test an entire satellite, and two machine shops for building test equipment and rework.

We’ll use these facilities for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Managing spacecraft inventory, including array, battery, radio, propulsion, GPS, communications, bus, and boom hardware.
  • Leveraging the facilities’ multiple test beds for flight, communications, radar, and more.
  • Performing procedures such as assembly, integration, and testing.
Above: The thermal vacuum (TVAC) chamber simulates the environmental conditions of outer space for satellite component testing.

We have also built out our 24/7 mission control center, which contains many unique capabilities that differentiate Capella from other SAR providers. Customers are able to place on-demand tasking orders in a self-service web application. This approach to satellite tasking is a first for the SAR industry and reduces the industry standard for tasking and collection from days to hours. This also offers a vast improvement in operational security as customers no longer need to worry about human-in-the-loop OpSec risk — they can relay their tasking requests in an anonymized and secure, rapid tasking system. The mission control center is the nerve center for communicating with our satellites, enabling us to monitor the health of individual satellites, track where our SAR sensors are at all times, and control commands to the satellite.

Above: Capella Space team members at the San Francisco mission control center

Announcing a new Government Advisory Board

The defense and intelligence community is one of the largest consumers of SAR imagery, and Capella has several partnerships with U.S. government agencies. To support this customer base even better, we’ve created a Government Advisory Board. This board gives us an important and unique perspective on how we can realize our Go-to-Market plan and launch our product offerings in the government space. Capella Space regularly works with program managers and analysts in the intelligence community to gain invaluable product feedback. Our government advisors give us a “Birdseye” view of where the intelligence community is heading, helping us navigate these large, interconnected agencies and combatant commands.

We’re excited to announce the members of our Government Advisory Board:

  • Douglas Loverro, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy and former Deputy Director of NASA for Human Space Flight.
  • Gil Klinger, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space, Strategic, and Intelligence Systems and former Vice President for Space Programs at Raytheon.
  • Jefferey K. Harris, former Director of National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and former President of Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space.

As our company has grown into new facilities and prepared for commercial operations, we’ve leaned on our Board of Directors to guide us, including:

  • Chris Boshuizen, operating partner at DCVC (Data Collective) and Planet co-founder and former CTO.
  • Matt O’Connell, operating partner at DCVC (Data Collective) and CEO of GeoEye for 12 years.
  • Nabeel Hyatt, general partner at Spark Capital, leading early investments in hypergrowth companies such as Postmates, Discord and Sonder along with Capella Space.

“What takes most companies and governments years and years to accomplish, Capella has done in months while under the extenuating circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Getting to the start of commercial operations is a new and exciting chapter for the company, and we’re very excited to put Capella’s game changing, high-quality SAR data into the hands of customers. Capella’s star is shining bright, and I am grateful to be a part of the journey.” — Dr. Chris Boshuizen, Capella Board Member, Operating Partner at DCVC and co-founder of Planet Labs.

Looking Forward

It’s been an exciting year for Capella — from the launch of Capella-2 to the release of our latest high-resolution Spot images — and now starting commercial operations marks another exciting milestone. We are proud to announce that Capella Space is open for business and that government and commercial customers alike will be able to access the highest quality SAR imagery commercially available. You can learn more about our innovative technology and how to request SAR data here.