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Sunday, May 22, 2022

Finnish Commercial Space Race Has Begun

Iceye’s sensational announcement at Slush got finally confirmed! Today the company’s first SAR Microsatellite Iceye-X1 was successfully launched from Satish Dhawan Space Center in India. Iceye-X1 is the first satellite from Finland built by a private company. 

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The Iceye journey towards launch was tough but rewarding. It took the company 3 years and $18.7M in financing from Finnish Innovation agency TEKES, European Union’s Horizon 2020 Program and private investors to launch its first satellite. Now when the satellite is up in space, the CEO of the company is thrilled:

“Now through this new SAR data source, we are closer than ever to unlocking the potential of the miniaturization of SAR satellite technology across many different industries,” said Rafal Modrzewski, CEO, and co-founder of Iceye.

Iceye’s SAR (synthetic-aperture radar) sensor allows its micro-satellite to monitor Earth in any weather conditions, be it clouds or darkness. Previous SAR instruments were big and expensive, but Iceye were able to bring SAR compact enough to fit a small satellite.

Since the cost of satellites has decreased in the recent years, it is now possible to launch dozens of them to create a global coverage constellation, which is exactly what Iceye is planning to do. Throughout 2018, the company plans to have at least two additional satellite missions. The bigger plan is to launch a constellation of more than 18 SAR-enabled microsatellites. The constellation, once fully deployed, will allow users to accurately image any point on Earth within only a few hours, regardless of weather or darkness.

As the mission was shown to be successful – Iceye has successfully established communications with the satellite – the company can now begin operations with its selected customers. Data received from the satellite in space can be used for a wide variety of use cases including monitoring changing sea ice for maritime and environmental uses, tracking marine oil spills and helping to prevent illegal fishing, to name a few examples.

What does this mean for Finnish space?

The launch means a lot for Finland’s commercial space. First of all, Iceye’s team has proved that it is possible to build a space business in a small not-so-space country like Finland and to be persevere enough to bring a satellite from lab to space. Secondly, with Iceye Finland finally has finally got its small but mighty analogue of Space-X, – not in terms of hardware of course, but in terms of a successful private space player.

Finland’s endeavours in satellite industry can be counted on fingers. Out of 3 satellites launched into space, only 2, including Iceye-X1 were successful. The first Finnish satellite Aalto-2 successfully reached the orbit but lost contact 3 months after. If Iceye’s missions planned for 2018 will demonstrate results, the company will set the scene for the entire Finnish satellite industry. In the meanwhile, we are popping some popcorn and waiting to see more Finnish satellite launches in the near future – Suomi100 and Reaktor’s Hello World, once aiming to be the first commercial satellite from Finland.

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Valerie Vlasenko
Valerie Vlasenkohttp://vspace.news/
Valerie Vlasenko is a space journalist tackling the dilemma of popularising space. Founder of VSpace Media and an Editor at ArcticStartup - Valerie has rich experience as an entrepreneur, a journalist and a space lawyer.

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