Space-as-a-Service boost with UK satellite contract, acquisitions

Space-as-a-Service boost with UK satellite contract, acquisitions

Business news |
By Jean-Pierre Joosting

European satellite builder AAC Clyde Space is aiming to dominate the Space-as-a-Service market through a UK project and two recent acquisitions.

The Swedish-owned company is to build ten small satellites in Glasgow, Scotland, as part of a UK government project for a new constellation. This comes as the OneWeb satellite operator also emerges from bankruptcy with UK support to continue its rollout of 720 large satellites for a low earth orbit (LEO) broadband network.

Alongside this, the €9.9m, three year XSpancion project aims to launch the constellation of ten CubeSat small satellites that will be available to business, including satellite communications, Earth Observation and remote sensing.

The project plans to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for satellite services. It brings together the University of Strathclyde, the Satellite Applications Catapult, Bright Ascension and D-Orbit UK. 

“The project will revolutionise our space-as-a-service offering,” said Luis Gomes, chief executive of Swedish-owned AAC Clyde Space. “It will allow us to significantly reduce the cost of every message collected, every image captured, supporting those business cases that to date have not been able to justify the capital expenditure to have hundreds of sensors in orbit. Fundamentally, our customers will no longer have to worry about how to access space, they can focus on how to enhance their core business. This project will catalyse a new generation of applications not previously possible.”

The project will specify new technologies for the constellation by the middle of 2021, covering propulsion, inter-satellite links, the safe and secure transmission of data and a customer interface. This is highly likely to integrate technologies from the recent acquisition of small satellite specialists Hyperion in Delft, the Netherlands, and SpaceQuest in the US.

“This game-changing project will see AAC Clyde Space develop cutting-edge technology, including communication between satellites to increase data performance, and help keep the UK at the forefront of the global small satellite market,” said Dr Graham Turnock, CEO of the UK Space Agency.

“Building satellites quicker and in higher volumes is not only vital to meet the increasing demand for services we all rely on, it also supports the launch of small satellites from UK soil in the coming years. The UK is a leading investor in telecommunications research, which is why we recently committed £250 million of investment to back ESA projects led by innovative companies like AAC Clyde Space.

The funding for the project comes the ESA Pioneer Partnership Projects programme which aims to support businesses in taking up new and advanced technologies and services in space. The UK Space Agency through ESA, will co-fund the project with €9.9m.

SpaceQuest, acquired last month for $8.4m, already operates a highly profitable Space as a Service business with 20 satellites in orbit for various customers.

“This acquisition represents the next step in our strategy to grow our operations in the US, and to expand our Space as a Service business,” said Gomes. “SpaceQuest’s fleet of satellites and ground station network represent a great addition of capability to our SaaS offering and further strengthens our plans to change the economics of delivering data services from space.”

Hyperion Technologies in Delft was acquired for SEK22.8m (€2.2m, $2.6m). It specialises in high performance, miniaturized components for small spacecraft, particularly high-reliability electronics and mechatronic systems for ADCS (Altitude Determination and Control Systems). These use star tracker and related systems, laser communication opening up extremely high speed communication capabilities between satellite and ground station as well as between satellites in orbit, spin-out products such as miniaturized payloads as well as payload processing platforms.

“We are transforming AAC into a true leader in the small satellite field,” said Rolf Hallencreutz, chairman of parent company AAC. “With SpaceQuest we gain a commercially attractive Space as a Service business and a strong foothold in the US, the largest and most dynamic space market. By bringing these two companies into the group we become a truly global supplier of space systems and a very attractive partner for companies who are looking to exploit opportunities based on data from space.”

“With the access of AAC world class designs SpaceQuest will be able to successfully grow in the very dynamic US space market. There is a growing market demand for quality suppliers of satellite technology. The combination of SpaceQuest, Hyperion and AAC Clyde Space creates a powerful and synergistic capability,” said Dino Lorenzini, Founder and CEO of SpaceQuest.

The company now employs 123 staff at Uppsala, Glasgow, Fairfax and Delft.

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