After securing unknown customers looking to deploy payloads in 2023, Condosat provider Loft Orbital has purchased another batch of tiny satellite buses from LeoStella. The firms wouldn’t say how many buses were bought, but Loft Orbital Chief Executive Officer Pierre-Damien Vaujour informed SpaceNews that one of them has already been completely booked and another is “half full.” Both satellites are expected to be launched in the very first half of the year 2023.
“We usually strive to acquire satellite buses prior to having clients,” Vaujour said. “However, we continue running into the problem of requiring more satellite buses because we have greater customer demand than expected.” Loft Orbital, based in San Francisco, is developing a small fleet of the multipurpose satellites to transport payloads and provide services for firms that don’t want to deal with the trouble or price of purchasing or flying their spacecraft.
LeoStella primarily develops satellites for BlackSky, its part-owner and an Earth observation company, but it also sells products to third parties, such as the LEO-100 business off-the-shelf satellite bus. Loft Orbital announced on January 6 that it has placed an order for several LEO-100 buses from LeoStella, following a $140 million fundraising round led by finance giant BlackRock.
“Now that we have additional capital, we expect to place a substantial order of buses shortly to create inventory in order to remedy this problem and be able to meet our customers’ expectations,” Vaujour stated, adding that the firm will seek vehicles from a variety of sources. The satellite bus which is meant for YAM-2 satellite, which flew on the SpaceX rideshare flight in the month of June, and for YAM-4, which is set to deploy in the 4th quarter of 2022, was developed by Blue Canyon of Boulder, Colorado.
The bus for Loft Orbital’s YAM-3 spaceship, which flew on the very same rideshare flight as YAM-2 in the month of June, as well as the YAM-5, which is scheduled to deploy in the second quarter of 2022, was developed by LeoStella, which is a joint venture between Europe’s Thales Alenia Space and BlackSky. Customers of the YAM -3 include the French satellite provider Eutelsat and the United States DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).
According to Vaujour, YAM-5 has been completely booked for some time, with customers including one of the top ten largest firms by market capitalization, a US prime contractor, a big civil space agency, and a minor device connectivity supplier. “While we can’t reveal any specific use cases,” he said, “the majority of the use cases we’re seeing are on AI and Autonomy applications.”
According to Brian Rider, LeoStella’s chief technology officer, pandemic-linked supply chain and operational concerns “have not severely impacted satellite production,” which the company plans to increase up this year. “We can put in a timetable buffer between production and our supply chain parts required dates since we operate in a continuous manufacturing paradigm,” Rider explained. “We plan to preserve that buffer as much as possible to ensure that our production line runs well.”