Startups

Judge: Satellite License Is Theia’s “Largest Asset by far”

Via TJ Bickerton/Wikimedia

Anyone in the market for an FCC satellite license? A federal judge has ordered that a financially underwater company be stripped of its most prized asset: its FCC license. 

The backstory: Creditors sued Theia Group to recover hundreds of millions they loaned to the six-year-old satellite developer. Per its website, Theia seeks (sought?) to develop “the only continuously-updated, real-time, digital representation of every physical activity, process, and object on earth.” À la Planet’s constellation, but with more hyperspectral/radar sensing equipment and much more ambitious capability claims. 

The current story: “There is no company today. There’s no money being spent in any meaningful way…All there really is, is a license and a business plan.” That’s what Theia’s counsel told Judge P. Kevin Castela of the Southern District of New York. 

  • The FCC granted Theia a license to launch 112 remote-sensing satellites in May ‘19. The license mandates that half of the constellation be on-orbit by May 2025. 

H/T: New Mexico Inno has masterfully chronicled each step of this story, because Theia planned to build a 4.1M-sq.-ft. satellite facility in Albuquerque. Theia has not signed its lease with Albuquerque City Council for the land that would host the facility.  

It is so ordered…
Though appointing a third-party receiver is an “extraordinary remedy” to be applied judiciously, Castela “comfortably” concluded that it was necessary in this case. Once appointed, the receiver will effectively assume control of Theia, its subsidiaries, and the crown jewel (ie, that FCC license).

Payload’s POV: A Theia creditor assesses the frequencies licensed to the company to be worth $2.4B. It’s safe to say that spectrum valuation is well beyond our purview—and we’ve already spilled more ink on this topic this week than normal.

Nonetheless, we’ll be closely watching what happens next with the FCC license. Spectrum is a finite resource. Demand is only going up and to the right for satellite operators, with growing competition from terrestrial emerging tech sectors.

Related Stories
StartupsVC/PE

Apex Raises $95M in Series B

With Aries already sold out into 2025, Apex plans to use the influx of cash to expand its production capabilities to meet growing customer orders.

InternationalStartups

Scottish Space Network, Sustainable Alpha Team Up To Grow Scottish Space Sector

The Scottish Space Network expects Scotland’s space sector to more than double in the coming years.

Startups

Can Space Start-Ups Really Wait A Year For Satellite Approval?

Since many start-ups are, by their nature, proposing novel technology that regulators haven’t encountered before, the scrutiny only increases.

MilitaryStartups

Slingshot Aerospace and DARPA’s AI Spy Satellite Solution, Agatha

Slingshot Aerospace is partnering with DARPA on a high-stakes game of orbital “I Spy.”