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Good morning, and happy February. 

Payload will be attending the 2022 SmallSat Symposium in Mountain View next week. If you’ll be there and would like to meet up, drop us a line!

In today’s edition…
🛰️ $SPIR results
👀 FCC broadband checks
🔃 On the move

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  Spire (NYSE:SPIR) Releases Preliminary Q4 Results and 2022 Guidance

A visualization showing the various types of data that Spire's satellites can capture. Graphic via Spire.
A visualization showing the various types of data that Spire’s satellites can capture. Graphic via Spire.

On Monday, Spire Global (NYSE:SPIR) released preliminary Q4 and full-year 2021 financial results. 

  • The “space-to-cloud analytics” provider expects to post Q4 revenues of $15.3M, a 111% year over year increase, and full-year revenue of $43.7M, a 53% YoY jump. 
  • Annual recurring revenue (ARR) is expected to be ~$70.8M, a 96% YoY increase. And ARR customer count climbed past 500 in 2021, per Spire CEO Peter Platzer. 
  • 2022 guidance: Spire expects revenue to be $85M–$90M, and ARR at the end of the year to be in the $100–$105M range.

Spire 101: Started in 2012 as a CubeSat Kickstarter campaign, Spire offers satellite-collected maritime and aviation data, predictive weather analytics, and space services. Operations are split across seven offices on three continents. 

Spire has a nanosatellite factory in Glasgow, Scotland. The company adheres to the agile development, vertically integrated school of satellite design, which stresses compact form factors, rapid iteration and refresh cycles, and software-defined, reprogrammable payloads. 

What the company sees: Spire builds and operates what it says is the world’s largest constellation of multifunctional satellites, and oversees a growing network of ground stations. Using radiofrequency sensors rather than cameras, Spire’s ~110 satellites monitor activity beyond the color spectrum visible to the eye. As the company says, it focuses on data that can’t be collected from Earth. 

  • Tracking a variety of signals, Spire’s LEMUR satellites observe and analyze maritime vessels, air traffic, and critical weather patterns. The company has built analytics products and forecasting engines on the back of these unique datasets. 
  • The company has also branched out into “Space Services,” or more accurately, space-as-a-service. That includes integrating and flying customer payloads on its own satellite bus, designing spacecraft from the ground up, and selling subscription-based space services.  

Consolidation continues apace…Like Planet, Spire is using its cash and M&A to increase share in an ever-fragmented Earth observation industry. Spire completed its acquisition of exactEarth, a maritime data provider, at the end of November. 

Investor context clues…Spire’s focus on ARR, a closely watched metric for subscription companies, suggests the constellation operator might want to be seen (and valued) as a SaaS-like company. Spire’s stock is down 26% YTD, but was up ~14% in pre-market trading. 


  FCC Prepares Latest Broadband Subsidies

Via SpaceX/Starlink
Via SpaceX/Starlink

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is prepared to award $1.2B+ in new broadband payouts through its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). 

  • The RDOF is intended to reduce the US’s digital divide by subsidizing broadband deployment in rural and underserved areas. The two-phase auction will pay out up to $20.4B to internet service providers over the course of a decade. 
  • Last December, SpaceX won ~$886M in RDOF funding. The only other satellite operator to win Phase 1 funding, Hughes Network Systems, was awarded $1.3M. 

This sixth wave of funding, the FCC’s largest to date, is targeted at broadband deployments in 32 states. But there’s a catch: The FCC will double the number of audits and on-site verification it conducts this year, after claims of unaccountability and lax RDOF funding oversight. 

The backstory: Last year, the FCC sent a letter to 197 winning RDOF bidders—including SpaceX—saying that broadband subsidies could not go toward serving parking lots, airports, or other urban areas. The FCC said its concerns covered areas “where there was evidence of existing service or questions of waste.” 

The fix: Verifications will be targeted at larger dollar and/or higher risk recipients. The FCC will also publish the results of verifications, audits, and speed/latency performance tests online.


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In Other News

  • SpaceX successfully launched the Italian CSG-2 satellite aboard a Falcon 9 on its fifth try. 
  • Comtech (NASDAQ:CMTL) unveiled Elevate, its software-defined very small aperture terminal (VSAT) platform.
  • NASA released the ISS transition report, which details the budgetary and scientific considerations going into the move from the ISS to Commercial LEO Destinations (CLD) partners.
  • EO Vista passed a key design review for an imaging sensor for USSF weather satellites.
  • ISS National Lab parent CASIS released Expedition Space Lab, a new online tool for STEM teachers. 
  • Lamborghini is (sigh) selling space-themed NFTs. 

On the Move

  • Sidus Space (NASDAQ:SIDU) has selected a board of directors: Dana Kilborne, president/CEO of Cypress Bank & Trust/Cypress Capital Group; Cole Oliver, equity partner at Rossway, Swan, Tierney, Barry & Oliver; Détente LLC Managing Partner Miguel Valero; Sidus CTO Jamie Adams; and Sidus CEO/founder Carol Craig.
  • Ball Corp. (NYSE:BLL) President Dan Fisher will assume the additional title of CEO, effective April 27. 
  • Tomorrow.io added Steve Smith and Kathryn Sullivan to its advisory board. In addition to both being retired astronauts, Sullivan is a former NOAA administrator and Smith sits on the ISS National Lab’s board of directors.
  • Satellogic (NASDAQ:SATL) hired Ryan McKinney as VP and GM of Satellogic North America and Caitlin Kontgis as director of global sales enablement.
  • Planet (NYSE:PL) hired Heike Rapp as VP of UX. Rapp was previously VP of design at Autodesk.
  • Virgin Orbit (NASDAQ:VORB) brought on Candace Givens as VP of engineering. Givens was formerly VP of remote sensing programs at Northrop Grumman’s space segment.
  • Blue Origin took on Tom Sanford, former executive director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, as payload sales lead for the New Shepard rocket.
  • The Commerce Department is seeking nominations for its newly formed Internet of Things Advisory Board. 

The View from Space

2021’s only solar eclipse, captured Dec. 4, 2021. Image: NASA