By William Ostrove, Forecast International
On August 13, Forecast International discussed Dauria Aerospace‘s satellite business with company founder and CEO Mike Kokorich. Kokorich stated that Dauria is building a global commercial technology company. In commenting on the global reach of the satellite industry, Kokorich noted that the company’s headquarters are in Munich, Germany, and that it operates facilities in the Moscow region of Russia and in the U.S. at Moffett Field in California.
Dauria is part of the wider push in the satellite industry toward greater commercialization and more miniaturization. A number of new commercial satellite companies have been founded recently, including Planet Labs, Skybox Imaging, and Spire. These companies focus on modern technology and user-friendly applications to attract customers. For many of these companies, the key to success is data. Satellites are simply the tool to gather and transmit the data. As computer components get smaller and cheaper, the companies are able to build small, inexpensive satellites that still provide good capabilities.
As with many companies in the satellite industry, export credit facilities and export insurance are critical to Dauria’s success. Fortunately for Dauria, the Russian government is promoting technology development and export and thus is willing to provide the government backing necessary to obtain export credit and insurance. In fact, for Dauria’s latest contract, to build two satellites for Aniara SpaceCom LLC of India, the Export Insurance Agency of Russia (EXIAR) might provide a direct loan to support the sale.
Many new satellite companies, such as Planet Labs, are designing, building, and operating their own satellites in-house. Dauria, however, utilizes a variety of arrangements with customers. For example, Kokorich describes the company’s current contract with Deimos, a remote-sensing satellite operator located in Spain, as being similar to a time share (credit butt). Each company is able to utilize the satellites for a set period of time, with both benefitting from the data gathered by the satellites. At other times, Dauria simply builds satellites under contract. The contract with Aniara falls in this category.
Unlike many new satellite companies, however, Dauria does not focus on a single satellite platform. Instead, the company has the flexibility to design and build satellites as needed. Kokorich said that the company would eventually like to have a set of standard platforms that it could sell to a variety of customers, similar to Boeing with its BSS-702 or Airbus with its Eurostar platform. The satellites for Aniara are based on a new Atom platform. Even with standardized designs, though, Kokorich foresees that the company will build custom-designed spacecraft or standardized designs as needed.
Satellites designed by Dauria for low-Earth orbit (LEO) operations will have an estimated lifespan of 5 years, while those designed for geosynchronous (GEO) orbit will have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. Kokorich stressed here that because the designs are new, lifespans are based on probabilistic models.
Dauria Aerospace has a goal of building a global technology company focused on building satellites and collecting data. The small satellite market is still developing and growing. While there is ample competition, Dauria is getting in early, and has already had success gaining contracts to build satellites for a number of operators. If it can continue that success, it will be well placed to grow going forward.