Funding round, build contract has UrtheCast on track for 2020 constellation launch 

20 November 2017

UrtheCast says it’s on track to have its planned 5m multispectral imaging UrtheDaily constellation launched and operating in 2020, with Surrey Satellite Technology now signed up to build the spacecraft pending completion of a funding round expected to close by year-end.

That funding round “significantly exceeds the $175m” needed for development of the constellation.

Chief executive Wade Larson described the third quarter as one in which the Vancouver-based Earth observation company made “significant progress in…transitioning UrtheCast to a business model based on predictable, long-term revenue streams derived from our revolutionary earth imaging technology”.

Larson, in the company’s third quarter results statement, also announced a “multi-year revenue commitment from a global leader in the aerospace industry, further validating our belief that UrtheDaily represents the state of the art in the rapidly expanding geoanalytics market.” The spacecraft – an unspecified number – will be based on the SSTL-250 platform and built by Surrey Satellites in Guildford, UK. The constellation promises images taken at the same time, from the same altitude everyday, in spectral bands chosen to match Landsat-8, Sentinel-2, RapidEye and Urthecast’s own Deimos-1 bands.

The company’s planned OptiSAR constellation of 16 satellites in eight tandem pairs (one multispectral optical and one SAR) in two orbital planes also got a boost, in the form of a contract worth more than C$100m with a confidential customer for development of a dual-frequency stand-alone SAR class satellite “as an accelerator” for OptiSAR. The contract remains pending government appropriation, but Larson says UrtheCast expects work on the programme to begin in early 2018, for launch in late 2020. “Selling one or more stand-alone SAR satellites provides a means to finance a significant portion” of ongoing OptiSAR development costs.

This OptiSAR precursor prospect follows UrtheCast’s October signing of a deal with Italian Space Agency- and Telespazio-owned company e-GEOS, to jointly market images taken by UrtheCast’s multispectral optical Deimos-1 and -2 and the Italians’ COSMO-SkyMed SAR constellation targeting maritime surveillance and oil & gas customers.

In total, UrtheCast’s Q3 revenue fell to C$10.2m, from C$20.7m last time; Earth observation revenues were hit by delay of a “major contract award”, now expected to be realised during Q1 2018. The company earns revenue from the Deimos satellites, and non-cash revenue from its cameras on the International Space Station. With lower revenue, adjusted EBITDA fell by C$5.1m, from a profit of C$4.7m to a loss of C$400,000 in the latest quarter.

Over the nine months to end-September, revenue fell from C$38.2m in 2016 to C$31.4 this year and a C$3.8m EBITDA profit turned into a C$800,000 loss.

Toronto by Deimos (UrtheCast)