The Business of Space Interview Series

What is the background of Spaceflight Industries's top management?

Spaceflight Industries CEO Jason Andrews held several leadership positions at Kistler Aerospace Corporation before founding Andrews Space in 1999. Formed with the intention of being a catalyst in the commercialization, exploration and development of space, Andrews Space was a best value integrator of aerospace systems and developer of advanced spacecraft products and components. In 2010, Andrews recognized that a number of satellite developers were unable to access space due to the cost of a launch, which led him to start Spaceflight Industries. With an experienced leadership team composed of well-renowned industry experts, with backgrounds in aerospace, technology, geospatial intelligence and government, the company has grown to 150 employees based in Seattle and Washington D.C. It has also expanded its service offering to include a geospatial intelligence service, BlackSky.

What Is Spaceflight Industries's Core Product or Service?

Through its services, Spaceflight, which oversees design, launch and operations for small satellites, and BlackSky, a premier global intelligence service, Spaceflight Industries is enabling access to space and redefining global intelligence.

Spaceflight: Spaceflight is enabling the new space age by revolutionizing access to space. A comprehensive launch services and mission management provider, the company removes the traditional hurdles of cost and consistency that have limited entrance to the industry. With a straightforward and cost-effective suite of products and services including state-of-the-art satellite infrastructure, rideshare launch offerings, payload integration and global communications networks Spaceflight enables commercial, non-profit organizations and government entities to achieve their mission goals, on time and on budget.

BlackSky: BlackSky’s premier global intelligence service provides an easy, affordable way to observe, analyze and act on timely and relevant insights about the planet. BlackSky combines access to high-quality satellite images from multiple sources, including its own planned 60-satellite constellation, with a diverse set of real-time sensor data such as social media, news and other data feeds. It is useful for tracking economic assets, monitoring illegal maritime activity, providing humanitarian relief, or securing troops and borders. BlackSky ensures customers have the most current and meaningful information at their fingertips so they can make well-informed decisions.

What Is Spaceflight Industries's Unique Proposition to Their Market Sector?

Spaceflight Industries is revolutionizing the commercial space industry by streamlining and simplifying launch and observation services. No other company provides organizations with satellite design, mission management, ground operations, rideshare capabilities, observation and geospatial analysis services. Through its Spaceflight launch services, customers can book cost-effective and routine access to a variety of orbits on many different launch vehicles to meet their needs. Through BlackSky’s web-based service, the company offers affordable satellite imagery and content, ease-of-use and responsiveness.

How Does Spaceflight Industries Disrupt the Competitive Environment of Its Market with Its Product/Service?

Spaceflight: Traditionally, access to space has been limited to government entities due to high cost of entry. Sending satellites into orbit once required purchasing an entire rocket; however, with the growing industry of smallsats, the demand for routine, cost-effective access to space has increased exponentially. In the past, launch service providers have been hesitant to work with secondary payloads as they create multiple points of contact, increased complexity, and challenges in managing the mission efficiently. Demand coupled with the growing number of launch vehicle providers created an opportunity for Spaceflight to assist in identifying, booking and managing rideshare launches. Spaceflight is launch vehicle agnostic, helping smallsat companies find and facilitate a launch to the orbit they need.

BlackSky: Historically, organizations have struggled with understanding the natural and man-made activities or events that impact their assets around the world. There is no single source for monitoring these assets in near real time with data that’s tailored or relevant to your situation. Systems are not holistic nor are they convenient or affordable. Further, while there’s a magnitude of satellite imagery available, no one has made it easy to access and consume (or compare by price, quality, responsiveness, etc.), enabled on-demand tasking of satellites for near real-time monitoring, or delivered a constellation with rapid revisit rate. BlackSky is addressing the most common pain points experienced by the satellite imaging industry, including latency in imagery, low revisit rates, high costs and complicated processes to access images and data.

What Are Spaceflight Industries's Growth Objectives over the next 5 Years?

Spaceflight Industries has two major milestones scheduled for the coming years, one for each service. Spaceflight is focused on successfully launching its inaugural dedicated rideshare mission on a SpaceX Falcon 9 out of Vandenberg AFB in California. The historic SSO-A mission is the first of what Spaceflight hopes will become a yearly mission. Smallsats are driving growth and innovation in the commercial space industry and it’s critical to provide innovative ways to meet their demands for launch options.

As for BlackSky, its 60-satellite constellation is scheduled to be on orbit by 2020. Currently, the first test satellite, Pathfinder-1 is in orbit, and the company plans to launch three more in 2017. Over the next five years, BlackSky will continue to focus on building and launching the constellation’s remaining satellites. Finally, in order to be the premier, all-encompassing online service for organizations to access and purchase satellite imagery and related content, BlackSky will steadily expand its ecosystem to include additional satellite imaging and sensory partners.

What Competitive Changes Does Spaceflight Industries Envisage Within Key Markets over the next 5 Years?

The number of consistent launches will rise as technology advances and new U.S.-based launch providers and other small launch vehicles emerge. This robust environment will encourage competitive pricing and increase availability, providing smallsat companies the most efficient options for launch. We anticipate technology advances, such as SpaceX’s successful launch of the first flight-proven rocket booster, to make headway in reducing launch costs and reducing the gap between launches. In the Earth-observation market, constellations will expand; leading to decreased cost and increased accessibility becoming the highly competitive factors within the satellite imaging industry.

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