Today’s Pathfinder episode features Albedo cofounder and CEO Topher Haddad. The Austin, TX- and Denver, CO-based startup is pushing the boundaries of EO by offering aerial-quality imagery (optical and thermal to start) from space.
VLEO is a term that you don’t hear everyday in the space industry. It refers to “Very Low Earth Orbit,” a region of space that’s roughly twice as close to Earth’s surface as the commonly-used LEO, or “Low Earth Orbit,” where most companies are building their satellite constellations.
But not Albedo.
The Austin, TX- and Denver, CO-based startup is changing the architecture of Earth Observation (EO) by operating satellites at an orbital regime in which no other commercial provider is successfully operating.
Today’s Pathfinder episode features Albedo cofounder and CEO Topher Haddad. Haddad spent the initial years of his career at Lockheed Martin, where he developed passive and active remote sensing systems before jumping into the famed startup accelerator Y Combinator to start Albedo.
Why VLEO? Albedo is pushing the boundaries of EO by offering aerial-quality imagery (optical and thermal to start) from space. In Dec. 2021, the company obtained the first commercial NOAA license to sell 10-cm satellite imagery—much higher-res than the 30-cm imagery that was allowed previously. Operating in VLEO enables 10-cm resolution at substantially lower cost than existing government satellites as long as you can solve the propulsion and positioning problem (more on that in the pod!).
Albedo is targeting early 2025 for its first satellite launch with a second launch later that year and several more in 2026. The initial constellation of six satellites is expected to achieve daily revisit, and the full constellation of 24 is intended to eventually reach five revisits per day.
A sneak peek…
Mo and Topher chat about the early days of Albedo, learnings from Lockheed, and building across Austin and Denver. In addition:
- VLEO: why, what, how?
- A satellite resolution primer
- Albedo product roadmap
- Artificial intelligence in EO
- Market for high-resolution imagery
And much more…
This episode is brought to you by SpiderOak, a US-based software company that builds space cybersecurity products and solutions for civilian, military, and commercial space operations. Learn more at https://spideroak.com/
• Chapters •
00:00 – Intro and SpiderOak Ad
01:38 – What is Albedo?
03:45 – How did Topher got into EO?
06:32 – The infamous classified tweet
09:19 – Satellite resolution primer
12:11 – Operating in VLEO
14:16 – Technological innovations for VLEO
18:22 – Current product roadmap
20:49 – Why start with optical and thermal?
22:55 – Higher resolution offerings and NOAA license
26:32 – How you approach the government vs commercial customer?
29:59 – SpiderOak Ad break
30:47 – From space to server in under an hour
34:42 – Competitor landscape
36:43 – AI within the EO market
39:42 – Resolution vs revisits?
41:44 – Building the Albedo team
44:43 – Austin vs Denver offices
46:17 – Distributed teams, centralized culture
48:56 – Life at YC
51:39 – Lessons learned at Lockheed
53:09 – What will a VLEO platform enable you to do in the long run?
56:28 – What other companies are you excited about?
57:35 – Albedo’s investors: Breakthrough Energy & Shield Capital