Satellite imagery specialist ICEYE is continuing its expansion in the United States and signed contracts worth $ 50 million last year

Three ICEYE satellites, the trio of silver cube-shaped spaceships visible on top of the stack, on SpaceX’s Transporter-1 mission in January 2021.

ICE

Finnish satellite imagery company ICEYE continues to expand its US business, announcing on Wednesday that it signed $ 50 million in contracts for its services last year and hired several new executives, including a former Tesla leader.

ICEYE Co-Founder and CEO Rafal Modrzewski told CNBC that overall revenue growth last year was “an unexpected result” in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, representing nearly 10 times the company’s 2019 growth in contracts.

“It definitely exceeded expectations and we’re seeing that trend continue,” said Modrzewski.

The company’s business is based on combining a special type of image called synthetic aperture radar (SAR) with a form factor the size of a suitcase. This reduces the cost of launching multiple satellites to create a network that can map multiple locations on earth times a day.

ICEYE isn’t the only one following the SAR image market. San Francisco-based Capella Space recently deployed its own orbiting SAR satellites to capture a portion of the Earth news market, valued at approximately $ 60 billion.

“We’re seeing the fastest percentage growth … in revenue from the commercial sector,” said Modrzewski.

The company is now working to further increase its sales, said Modrzewski, “from tens of millions of booked contracts to hundreds of millions”. This made it necessary to hire additional executives at ICEYE to “handle this hypergrowth phase,” he said. The company now has 280 employees worldwide.

“Our plan for 2021 is really to grow the constellation and expand manufacturing capabilities to maintain this base as we need to respond to market demand,” said Modrzewski.

Another 10 satellites launched this year

Founded in 2015, Modrzewski has raised more than $ 150 million in venture funding to date, with 10 satellites being put into orbit.

However, ICEYE plans to double that this year alone and put an additional 10 satellites into orbit on three different upcoming launches. The satellites will represent a next generation of capabilities for ICEYE, with Modrzewski noting that the first will be technology demonstrations.

“We usually call these satellite demonstrations because they’re the first – we don’t guarantee full commercial capability, although we will aim for 100% of the design. And then the follow-up missions will most likely be of this generation, but on a commercial basis,” Modrzewski said.

While ICEYE’s next-generation satellites have several improvements, Modrzewski highlighted the addition of a “multi-spot function” – the ability to fly over a location only once but deliver multiple images at the same time.

The new satellites from ICEYE also offer the possibility of capturing swaths over 100 kilometers long, an “even better resolution” than the current 25 cm offer and faster delivery of images to customers.

How long it takes ICEYE to deliver an image after receiving a customer order is an important metric for its satellites.

While ICEYE is able to get a satellite “within an average of 12 hours” in sight of most parts of the world, Modrzewski expects this process – called “tasking” a satellite – to be “somewhere closer to six to five hours” is reduced. on average by next year.

After capturing the image, ICEYE gave its next generation satellites the ability to “download and acquire simultaneously”. This means that ICEYE wants to deliver within 10 minutes of taking the picture and not a few hours later.

ICEYE previously expected to build a constellation of 18 satellites in orbit, but Modrzewski anticipates the company will now launch more satellites after investing more in manufacturing last year. The number of satellites needed in orbit is “always on demand, so it’s very difficult for me to tell,” he noted.

The expansion continues

Modrzewski said the company’s US office, which ICEYE announced last year, is growing very rapidly. ICEYE now plans to expand it to “almost match” its US presence with the company’s headquarters in Helsinki, Finland.

ICEYE announced five new additions to its leadership team on Wednesday to support continued growth. The company hired Susan Repo as CFO, who had previously worked for Tesla for five years, including as CFO of Tesla Finance.

The company added three new ICEYE vice presidents: former MDA chief systems engineer Alan Thompson as vice president of engineering, former EagleView data science director Shay Strong as vice president of analytics, and Marita Markkula – the former marketing director of cybersecurity company F- Secure – as Vice President Marketing.

ICEYE also brought on Steven Scheers, who has a background in human resources at several growing companies, to serve as the company’s chief people and culture officer.

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