Earth observation company Satellogic announced on January 19 that it has signed a contract with SpaceX that will cover several of its satellite launches over the next year.
The Multiple Launch Services Agreement makes SpaceX Satellogic the preferred provider to launch a constellation of small satellites, having previously relied on Chinese, European and Russian vehicles, including 10 Satellites Launched as Payload at Long March 6 November 5.
In an interview, Satellogic CEO Emiliano Carjeman said the low prices and frequent launch opportunities offered by SpaceX prompted his company to sign up. “The new rideshare software that SpaceX put together has cut the price four or five times on a per kilogram basis,” he said. “This really made rideshare compete very well in the market and caused us to start conversations with SpaceX.”
Satellogic plans to make its next four launches with SpaceX, starting in June. Additional launches will take place in December, March and June of 2022. They will all be Sun-Synchronous Go-Sharing missions, with at least four satellites at the launch of June. The company, which currently has 13 satellites in operation, is undertaking projects with a constellation of about 60 satellites by the end of 2022 or early 2023.
The company also has the option to fly satellites as transport payloads on Starlink missions. These will go into orbits with a medium inclination, which Cargeman said will complete the bulk of the constellation in sun-synchronous orbits. He said: “They give us more diversity at times to return visits to important points,” noting that the company has one satellite in such an orbit. “We are looking to deploy more medium-tilt satellites over the next 12 to 18 months, but we haven’t decided exactly when these launches will take place.”
Another benefit of the agreement, he said, is the flexibility it provides in determining the number of satellites to fly, as well as options for flying satellites on Starlink missions. “It gives us the possibility to make those decisions closer to the launch date.”
While SpaceX is Satellogic’s preferred launch provider, Kargieman has sometimes not ruled out using other providers. He said: “Because we may need a certain orbit, we may still decide to launch a dedicated missile from time to time to make sure that we have the satellites where we want them.”
He said Satellogic is seeing strong demand for high-resolution images its satellites produce, with that demand accelerating in the past year from government customers in particular. He said: “It is very clear on the government side that there is a huge demand that has not been met.” “The epidemic has accelerated the demand for Earth observation data and geospatial analyzes.”
This request was a major factor in the decision to choose SpaceX, as its launch services allowed Satellogic to speed up the deployment of its range. “This is a good point to invest more,” said Carjeman. “We feel strongly that this is the right time for us to double the volume of data and continue bringing this data to the market at a reasonable cost.”