SSL appoints VP for commercial Earth observation

SSL-built systems will feature on NASA’s Europa Clipper fly-by mission, to launch in the 2020s; meanwhile, the company is ramping up its focus on Earth observation (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

9 May 2018

Former GeoNeo and BAE Systems executive Mark Sarojak has joined Palo Alto-based satellites and space systems maker SSL as VP for commercial Earth observation, to lead the company’s remote sensing business and “drive strategies for the wider adoption of satellite-enabled technologies and the growing smallsat applications market”. Parent company Maxar Technologies – the former MDA/MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, which also owns DigitalGlobe (imagery) – described the appointment as “expand[ing] the company’s focus on small satellites and Earth observation”.

And, Adam Marks has been named chief strategy officer. Most recently he was VP strategy and corporate development at Thales Group.

Separately, Maxar posted above-expectation Q1 results. Group revenue was up by nearly half to $557.7 million – with revenue from imagery soaring to $211.4 million from just $7.7 million last time, and from services nearly tripling: to $70 million, from $25.4 million.

Further reflecting the addition of DigitalGlobe, profit – EBITDA – from imagery was $138.1 million in the first quarter this year, compared to just $3 million in the same period of 2017. Q1 2018 group EBITDA stood at $187.4 million.

Performance, said chief executive Howard Lance, was “driven by strong growth in our imagery and services segments, where demand remains robust given a dynamic global geopolitical environment and the continued expansion of commercial use cases for geospatial data and insights. Our diversification strategy is working, we are delivering on the cost synergies from the DigitalGlobe acquisition.”

Closed in October 2017, the cash and shares acquisition valued the Colorado-headquartered DigitalGlobe at $2.4 billion. The deal was also a key element in a “US Access Plan”. Under that plan, Vancouver-based MDA and its SSL subsidiary created a San Francisco-based holding company, SSL MDA Holdings, which manages and controls all of the company’s operations across Canada, the US and internationally, and operated under a US Department of Defense Security Control Agreement.

On the closing of the DigitalGlobe acquisition, the company also changed its name to Maxar Technologies, and initiated trading on the New York Stock Exchange, in addition to its Toronto exchange listing.