For the fifth year, Via Satellite’s 10 Hottest Companies list highlights the “must watch” companies providing satellite communications, ground systems, manufacturing, imagery and sensing, and launch services. Via Satellite editors chose the companies on this list based on their expected activity for the year, and a mix of market share, transformational technology, ground-breaking deals, and overall industry excitement. The companies selected as the 2023 10 Hottest Companies are listed here in alphabetical order:
Cobham Satcom provides technology solutions in the hotly contested mobility arena. Its dealflow and recent technology releases and partnerships point to a company that is definitely making its mark across the sector. In 2022, a number of satellite companies put their faith in Cobham to provide the connectivity solutions they need to power their business plans.
Cobham is collaborating with Viasat on a new satellite connectivity solution for the maritime and energy industries in preparation for the launch of Viasat's next-generation satellite constellation, ViaSat-3. Another deal will see Cobham supply the landing terminals for Telesat’s Lightspeed LEO network. Cobham will manufacture, integrate, and install advanced Ka-band tracking antennas at Telesat’s sites throughout the world, and provide long-term logistics and maintenance support. Cobham is also playing a part in one of the most groundbreaking deals in satellite in 2022, the deal between Apple and Globalstar to provide emergency SOS service available via satellite. Cobham designed and manufactured new high-power antennas to enable this service. The ground stations use new high-power antennas designed and manufactured specifically for Apple by Cobham Satcom.
Aside from the deal flow, the company is looking to provide products and solutions in the multi-orbit arena, with many product milestones across maritime and land mobile. Its Seatel 1500 VSAT antenna is a good example of this — it is a 1.5 meter VSAT available in single Ku- or Ka-band configuration. It also comes in one dual Ku-Ka-band version enabling vessels to seamlessly switch from Ku- to Ka-band in a simple click. Cobham Satcom is a trusted partner for operators looking to offer multi-orbit and next-generation connectivity.
Kepler Communications is working to build internet infrastructure in space for the space economy of the future. The company is building a network for on-orbit communications in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO), to provide internet for assets in space. Kepler is taking a multi-pronged approach to this goal. It operates a high-data rate Ku-band service, with 19 of its first-generation satellites currently on orbit. Flown as a hosted payload, Kepler’s Ku-band terminal can be integrated onto any satellite 2U or larger. Once in orbit, customers can move large amounts of data with the terminal and access to Kepler’s spectrum licenses and ground network. The company has its own ground stations and in-house production facilities to design, build, and test its satellites.
Looking to the future, the company is also pursuing inter-satellite S-band and optical services through its Aether constellation plans, pitching the service as a solution for Earth observation, weather monitoring, scientific missions — any mission that values gigabytes of data. Kepler has tapped Tesat-Spacecom for lasercom terminals, and has a deal to launch a test of the Aether network on Spire’s satellites.
Led by founder and CEO Mina Mitry, Kepler is part of Canada’s growing space industry, based in Toronto. Mitry has bold goals to provide continuous connectivity for space so that humanity can become a spacefaring civilization.
Lynk’s direct satellite-to-cell service is gaining traction as the company works to connect 4 billion potential global customers who have existed outside of broadband coverage for so long, they haven’t even bothered buying a smartphone. Lynk’s 3GPP-compliant service is unique in the way it convinces cell phones to treat Lynk’s LEO satellites like any ground-based mobile cell tower. This gives greater incentive for those frustrated underserved in rural regions to buy an off-the-shelf iPhone or Android device.
The company’s recent developments have opened the doors for Lynk to be a global service provider. In September, the Federal Communications Commission granted Lynk the first-ever commercial license for a satellite-direct-to-standard-mobile-phone service. Then in November, the company traveled to the most rural and remote regions in Southern Australia to conduct a live satellite direct-to-mobile technology demonstration alongside its regional partner, Optus. Lynk successfully connected a standard mobile phone directly to its satellite mobile base station in orbit, then sent and received a text message via the Optus network. Overall, Lynk has commercial agreements with 25 MNOs covering 41 countries.
Along with proving that satellite-to-cell connectivity works in even the most remote regions in the world, Lynk provides an invitation to every regional and multi-orbit satellite operator to partner with the company as a network enhancement. Combine the recent successful launch of Lynk’s second and third cell-tower satellites with the market-wide wave of enthusiasm for hybrid satellite and cellular rural broadband services, and Lynk is entering 2023 in a strong position.
Ovzon stands out in the crowd of European space companies thanks to a multi-layered strategy bundling its satellite capacity and terminals together in satcom-as-a-service (SaaS). The combination of its own satellites, terminals, and its SaaS offering is one of the most exciting components of its strategy. Ovzon has developed proprietary satellite terminals and offers broadband service by leasing capacity from other operators. It is preparing for the launch of the Ovzon-3 satellite to bring much more capacity to the SaaS offering. While the Ovzon-3’s launch has been pushed further into this year, it is a key part of the company’s strategy going forward. The satellite will have five powerful steerable spot beams and the Ovzon On-Board Processor, a proprietary software-enabled communications platform integrated on the satellite and providing a space-based mesh network. It allows remote satellite terminals to continue to operate independently of a teleport. It connects remote terminals directly to each other and provides a strong level of resiliency.
The company also has a diverse range of customers for its services and solutions. For example, it has been working with the Italian Fire and Rescue Service, the United Nations, the Colombian government to support presidential elections, as well as the U.S. Department of Defense, U.K. Ministry of Defence. The company also reported revenue growth in 2022, compared to 2021. Ovzon has lofty aims to reshape satellite operations by selling satellite-as-a-service. The company wants to become the de-facto standard for SaaS for organizations with critical missions and demanding requirements. It is a company that is also at a critical inflection point, as it looks to blend satellites, services and terminals in one overall offering.
Pixxel, founded in 2019 by then 20-year-olds Awais Ahmed and Kshitij Khandelwal, is planning to build a constellation of hyperspectral Earth imaging satellites and the analytical tools to mine insights from that data. The constellation is designed to provide global coverage every 24 hours, with the aim of detecting, monitoring and predicting global phenomena. While it is still early days for the company, it has already worked with notable organizations such as the Indian Space Research Organisation, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Lockheed Martin.
Pixxel recently launched its third hyperspectral satellite, Anand, in November 2022 on an ISRO launch. Last year, it announced an early adoption partnership with Australian cloud agritech company, DataFarming. Using Pixxel’s hyperspectral dataset, DataFarming will be able to monitor crop health. Pixxel believes its constellation of hyperspectral satellites have the potential to make agriculture more efficient, sustainable, and automated. It boasts that its constellation of satellites provide eight times more information and 50 times better resolution than existing in-market options.
Pixxel is already garnering attention, and in 2019, it was the only Asian startup among the selected 10 to be a part of the Los Angeles-based Techstars Starburst Space Accelerator. Pixxel has the potential to be transformative not only in terms of its ability to help industries in sectors like agriculture, but it could be highly influential in India, a massive market for satellite-based services.
This past December, space-resilient computing infrastructure startup Ramon.Space received the almighty AS9100 Quality Management System certification for aerospace and defense organizations. This is the company’s ticket to the high-level government contracts that thrust space startups into longevity and security.
Ramon.Space, based in Israel, is sitting on a gold-mine technology — AI/ML processor-powered software systems that satellites absolutely need in order to do any of the things they are promising to do for the world during the next two decades. One of these things is processing and sharing the complex data that will (hopefully) provide us with some idea on how to adapt to climate change. Another is anything requiring robotics and complex maneuvers in space — capabilities associated with space debris removal and life-extension.
Many in the satellite and space industries are worried about the lack of powerful software systems that can operate in space. Ramon.Space is one of a small group of soon-to-be coveted specialists that will soon find themselves struggling to keep up with demand until more competition eventually gravitates to the market. It’s just hard to see how this scenario doesn’t play out, especially with all of the technologies depending on the availability of advanced computing systems that Ramon.Space is developing at this very moment.
Rocket Lab has grown far beyond a smallsat launcher, solidifying itself as a leader in space launch, manufacturing, subsystems, and software. Not a small feat for a company that reached orbit just a few years ago. After internal growth and a series of acquisitions in recent years, Rocket Lab’s Space Systems segment logged a series of wins in 2022. Two contracts stand out — the $143 million contract to design and manufacture of 17 spacecraft buses for Globalstar’s new Low Earth Orbit satellites as an MDA subcontractor, and two contracts to provide satellite separation systems for companies building Space Development Agency’s (SDA) Tranche 1 Transport Layer (T1TL) satellites. The company’s Photon spacecraft is making headlines, and in November, a Lunar Photon spacecraft injected NASA’s CAPSTONE mission onto a ballistic lunar transfer after an Electron rocket launched the mission.
Business is growing for the launch side, too. After two challenging Electron failures in 2020 and 2021, Rocket Lab has bounced back, logging a record nine launches in 2022. The company is working toward reuse of the Electron vehicle, just saw its inaugural launch from the United States, all while developing the heavier lift Neutron rocket. The company has rocketed its growth story around the globe, with the motto, “We go to space to improve life on Earth.”
In a time when space situational awareness is of growing importance, Slingshot Aerospace takes a wide view of the issue. Instead of focusing on one orbit or one type of data, Slingshot Aerospace envisions space safety in a holistic way, as a system of systems. Its products cut across Geostationary, Low-Earth and Medium-Earth Orbits, active and non-active debris and include space weather conditions. The company offers a number of products around space situational awareness, including Beacon, a collision avoidance platform that sends collision alerts and helps operators communicate and coordinate satellite maneuvers.
The company had a busy 2022, closing two expansions on its Series A funding round, and acquiring both Seradata and Numerica’s space domain awareness division to bolster its war chest of space data. Led by CEO Melanie Stricklan, Slingshot is looking toward the future where operators have in-space assets across multiple orbital regimes — GEO, MEO, LEO, and cislunar – and providing the service to keep it safe. The Space Force is taking notice as well, and Slingshot received a $25.2 million contract from SpaceWERX in March 2022 to support development of the company’s Digital Space Twin. The company has built its reputation as a go-to provider of SSA services and mission planning tools and a critical voice in the space sustainability conversation.
When Viasat’s equipment was hacked in Ukraine in 2022, it raised the issue of cybersecurity for satellite operators to the top of the industry’s mind. It will be up to companies like SpiderOak to provide the solutions the industry needs as it is on the frontline like never before.
The company’s OrbitSecure product leverages blockchain/distributed ledger and no-knowledge encryption to secure the communications for the management of spacecraft and payloads, such that only authorized parties may command and gain access to space assets and their contents. SpiderOak had a strong 2022 with some interesting new deals in place. In December, it teamed up with TriSept to provide a comprehensive end-to-end security system capable of keeping critical space and ground operations protected from intentional interference and attacks. It also won a contract from the U.S. Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) to deliver the OrbitSecure zero-trust protocol on-orbit. It also teamed up with Lockheed Martin Space's Mission Solutions business to develop and test a zero-trust cybersecurity platform to secure data across the space data supply chain.
The company is well funded and just closed a $16.4 million oversubscribed Series C round. SpiderOak is one of a new generation, a new breed of companies, that are focused on the security of these systems. It is a pioneer in many ways, but its work has also just begun.
Japan has a robust space startup economy, with many startups working to build on the nation’s aerospace heritage. Warpspace, based in Tsukuba, Japan, is focused on commercializing laser communications. The company plans to establish a commercial optical data relay network to address the bottleneck for Earth observation satellites which collect a large amount of data outside of ground network coverage. Such a network could increase data volume transmitted and increase responsiveness and enable real-time analysis for Earth observation companies.
The company has one test cubesat in space, and recently placed an order with Mynaric for its Condor Mk3 laser terminals, tapping a trusted partner for the technology. Warpspace is increasing its presence in the United States, opening an office in Washington, D.C., and targeting work with the Space Development Agency. The immediate business plan is on a near-Earth data transport network, but Warpspace is also looking to cislunar communications and beyond. JAXA has selected the company to conduct a study on optical communications for lunar exploration activities.
Japan is also known for fostering startups that grew from university projects, and Warpspace is one example of that. The company was started at the University of Tsukuba, and CEO Satoru Tsunemach is a director at an incubation organization to grow the next generation of Japanese startups. Tsunemachi has said that while it is not easy to compete with U.S. and European startups, laser communications are a developing market that has not been fully commercialized — making it the perfect avenue for an international challenger. VS