Last week, Finland-based radar satellite operator ICEYE announced it opened a new manufacturing facility in Irvine, California and will be working with In-Q-Tel to identify U.S. government customers. The U.S. headquarters location includes the ability to produce multiple spacecraft simultaneously, a research and develpoment lab, offices, a customer engagement space and a Mission Operations Center for monitoring and operating U.S. licensed spacecraft.
“With our new production facility in the U.S., we will add significant next-generation capabilities to our space and ground segments,” said Jerry Welsh, CEO of ICEYE US. “This will provide us with the most reliable operational foundation and give us the flexibility and efficiency to best accommodate the requirements of our U.S. government customers.”
The U.S. expansion also includes adding more personnel in the fields of spacecraft engineering, assembly, integration and testing, project management, software development, ground services, sales, and customer service. ICEYE expects to have offices on the east and west coasts by mid-2021, an aggressive expansion for the Finnish company.
Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites can “see” through clouds and at night, unlike their optical earth observation counterparts. This ability makes them uniquely desirable for national security. In-Q-Tel is a non-profit that acts like a venture capital firm for U.S. national security, identifying emerging technologies and unsolved problems for the national security community and investing in and working with commercial startup companies that can provide solutions to those problems. Included in In-Q-Tel’s portfolio are ICEYE, SAR radar provider Capella Space, and IoT company Myriota.
“ICEYE’s world-class SAR satellites and their market-leading global coverage allows for capture despite time of day and weather conditions. We are pleased and excited to bring this technology to our government partners,” said Simon Davidson, Managing Partner, In-Q-Tel, and EVP, IQT Emerge.
The creation of a U.S. facility and operations center implies that one or more U.S. agencies want “clean” ICEYE radar satellites that are assembled and operated within the country independent of any overseas third party. ICEYE satellites are unique, packing a radar into the 6U cubesat formfactor roughly the size of a larger shoebox.
ICEYE has launched 10 satellites and plans to launch up to 10 new satellites this year in order to meet commercial and government customer demand. Last year, the company booked $50 million in contracts. In the commercial world, SAR imaging is coming into wider use for such things as monitoring ice flows along northern shipping routes; assessing economic activity through monitoring oil storage facilities, ports and ships, and vehicles; and the impact of natural disasters for insurance agencies.