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Good morning. One-fourth of the Payload team was on the ground in Florida to see Crew-3 off to the space station. Congrats to NASA and SpaceX! 

Today’s newsletter: 
🤝 Shift4, SpaceX
🌍 Planet M&A
📝 Contract report
📊 Payload Insights 

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 SpaceX 🤝 Shift4

The first slide of Shift4’s investor deck was a teaser for its surprise announcement. Image: Shift4

Shift4, a name that may ring a bell for Payload readers, reported Q3 earnings Wednesday. And though the payment processor didn’t have a blowout quarter, Shift4 stock (NYSE:FOUR) finished the day up 16%. 

Why? An educated guess: space. Specifically, SpaceX. Shift4 said yesterday that it’s struck a five-year deal to process payments for Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite internet service. 

“There is no question there will be a space economy, and it will be powered by software,” Shift4 CEO Jared Isaacman told Payload via email. As Starlink extends service into new markets, “we will ensure our merchant relationships have the full spectrum of payment acceptance capabilities needed anywhere in the world,” Isaacman said.

  • Isaacman was financier and commander of the all-civilian Inspiration4 mission in September. 
  • Starlink is “already doing over $1 billion of payment volume,” Isaacman noted in a call with analysts. 

Stay tuned for more from Isaacman. For now, here’s a snapshot of the Starlink opportunity, as Shift4 sees it:

 Planet Picks up Another Startup

Planet image of phytoplankton in the Sea of Marmara, taken June 10, 2021. Via Planet

ICYMI: Planet Labs has agreed to acquire VanderSat, an analytics provider specializing in water and crop health data, in a transaction valued at ~$28M. The deal represents Planet’s fourth acquisition, as the satellite operator prepares to go public.  

Key data: In July, Planet announced a SPAC valued at $2.8B. The earth observation (EO) company has 130+ satellites currently in orbit, hoovering up a vast amount of data. Planet has a constant, all-encompassing view of Earth’s surface, 24/7.

Paraphrasing a bit, Planet’s MO is bettering Earth through satellite data from the skies. VanderSat is a natural complement. The Netherlands-based startup uses passive microwave sensor data from national space agencies to improve agricultural conditions for industry, nonprofit, and government customers.

Where VanderSat shines: EO has no shortage of data to analyze. VanderSat develops sophisticated algorithms to process specialized data and produce digestible insights and human-readable reports. 

Industry watchers say EO is destined for consolidation. Acquiring VanderSat could help Planet expand ag inroads—and extend an analytical layer over a key type of Earth data. “When one combines their new data with Planet’s, the value is far greater than the sum of its parts,” Will Marshall, CEO and co-founder of Planet, said in a statement.


Mobius Labs integrates computer vision into satellites through a simple SDK. Spin up cutting-edge machine learning models and run them locally on edge devices—your satellites—without an AI PhD or sacrificing on-orbit storage and compute. Mobius Labs’s AI models detect critical targets and removes unusable data, before ever downlinking.

Find out more here.

In Other News

  • Spire (NYSE:SPIR) booked $9.6M in Q3 revenue, a 33% annual increase. 
  • Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) has passed a critical design review for its space-based hypersonic/ballistic missile-tracking system. 
  • Iridium (NASDAQ:IRDM) announced commercial availability of its Certus 100 midband service.
  • Honeywell (NASDAQ:HON) announced two new “resilient” navigation systems, for use in GPS-contested/denied environments. 
  • Jeff Bezos spoke last night at Our Future in Space, an event held at the Washington National Cathedral in DC. 
  • A Tesla convoy that transported Crew-3 to the launchpad had “S3ND IT” license plates. Is this what synergy looks like?

📝 Contract Report 📝

  • Virgin Orbit signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Japan’s ANA Holdings for 20 flights using Virgin’s LauncherOne system.
  • The U.S. Army opened a solicitation of interest for an Integrated Broadcast Service radio/terminal solution.
  • Spire Global (NYSE:SPIR) joined NASA’s Quiet Supersonic Community Testing contract to provide data on factors that impact sonic booms.
  • NASA awarded a contract worth up to ~$149M to Halvik for IT management services. 
  • Viasat and Intercorp Perú have partnered to bring connectivity to underserved areas in Latin America and the Caribbean. 
  • NanoAvionics, a smallsat mission integrator, signed a contract with ground station service provider Contec to supply 16 nanosatellites and mission integration/launch services.

Payload Insights

Apropos of nothing, we decided to compare SPAC data between:

  1. Satellite companies (broadly defined) 
  2. Electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft developers

Note that these figures denote pro-forma equity value, once a deal closes. Most of the above companies have yet to complete their merger. With the disclaimer that this data is non-exhaustive…our biggest takeaway: eVTOL companies tend to fetch higher valuations, even though they largely pre-revenue businesses.