Max Polyakov, Managing Partner of Noosphere Ventures Investment Fund is one of the entrepreneurs to watch in the space industry. Recently, Via satellite did an interview with Polyakov to talk about his ambitions for Earth observation data analysis (EOSDA), which plans to launch seven optical satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO) by 2024 to monitor agriculture, forestry, and more.
Then Polyakov announced that it is acquiring a controlling stake in Aerospace Dragonfly, a South African New Space company that manufactures high performance imaging satellites and payloads. The company has been successful in the South African space industry. This adds Dragonfly Aerospace to an ecosystem that includes the launch supplier Firefly Aerospace, EOSDA, and SETS, an electric space thruster systems company, part of the Noosphere Ventures portfolio of companies.
In a new interview, Via satellite talks to Polyakov about why he decided to invest in Dragonfly Aerospace and what this company brings to its line of space assets.
VIA SATELLITE: Why did you decide to acquire the South African space company Dragonfly Aerospace?
Polyakov: You don’t buy anything without confidence in the product. The Dragonfly team has a proven track record in their cooperation on EOS Data Analytics projects, and I have seen their expertise firsthand. They have over 20 years of experience in building imaging and payload satellites, especially in the high resolution segment. This acquisition consolidates Dragonfly Aerospace’s status as an essential component of the vertically integrated space ecosystem that we are building.
VIA SATELLITE: What unique abilities does Dragonfly bring to the wallet?
Polyakov: Dragonfly’s advanced imaging technology provides high-quality images in a wide range of spectra and critical resolutions to monitor the health of the planet and enable smart agriculture that helps maintain biodiversity, for example. Dragonfly’s capabilities have exciting business applications, but they can also be used to help alleviate some of humanity’s greatest challenges, such as climate change.
VIA SATELLITE: How will you integrate Dragonfly Aerospace into your portfolio of space assets? How does this fit in with Firefly Aerospace, for example?
Polyakov: It’s a perfect fit. We invest in a wide range of streamlined space technology companies across the value chain: launchers, payloads, propulsion technology, in-orbit maintenance, data analysis and R&D.
For example, Dragonfly Aerospace creates high resolution cameras. Firefly Aerospace provides affordable launch and space services, and EOS Data Analytics brings comprehensive spatial data analysis to the table and is also developing its own radar and optical satellites.
So all the pieces of the puzzle come together – we are building a vertically integrated and scalable space infrastructure with broad control over space logistics, Earth observation [EO] satellites, communications, ground stations and complex data analysis. Dragonfly – like Firefly Aerospace – is an important part of this strategy.
VIA SATELLITE: How do you see the potential of small satellites? Is the satellite world completely heading in this direction?
Polyakov: Small satellites have been adopted by commercial and civilian space communities faster than we have seen their use in national security space. Large traditional satellites continue to be the mainstay of this category, but the trend is changing rapidly. the Space development agencySmall, disaggregated satellite architectures, with their low latency response to terrestrial threats, will prove themselves to the combatant. In the short term, large satellites will continue to be the backbone of the national security space, but as the SDA “layers” mature and prove their worth, there will be a more balanced operational mix of small and large satellites. large satellites commercial and civilian space mission areas.
On the launch side, the small satellite market has been underserved for some time. Firefly Aerospace is focused on providing competitively priced lightweight payload launch vehicles for the small satellite market, where secondary payload launches are often the only option. We believe there are exciting opportunities in this market. In particular, satellite manufacturing revenues have already increased by 10% this year; much faster than what we saw just seven years ago.
In the future, small satellites will allow less capitalized players – small companies, emerging economies – to have their own space presence, and therefore we believe that today’s space companies will be incentivized to find more profitable solutions. Firefly stands just at the dawn of this world.
VIA SATELLITE: With the growing number of small satellites in orbit, what do you think of space debris? Is this the great challenge for the space sector at the dawn of this new era?
Polyakov: Space debris is a huge problem, and we’ve focused on it several times throughout our posts, trying to raise awareness about this issue and our efforts to eliminate the issue. In fact, our company Space Electric Thruster Systems, or SETS, produces non-toxic electric propulsion systems that will allow satellites to de-orbit cost-effectively. New satellites using EESS technology will no longer contribute to the space debris problem.
VIA SATELLITE: Are you looking for new acquisitions to bring more capabilities together under one roof?
Polyakov: Working closely with other industry players and sharing expertise is essential for developing customer-oriented businesses, as well as for finding solutions that add value in the space industry. Whether this takes the form of acquisitions, joint ventures, or just cooperation within the industry, we are willing to do our part to advance the small space ecosystem.
VIA SATELLITE: What are your plans in terms of building a roadmap for space assets?
Polyakov: It’s been one of my mantras since we started this business: Space technology should help improve life on Earth. We’re not just looking for business success; we want to build an economy that serves future generations. To do this, we have developed a two-pronged strategy: achieving a vertically integrated and scalable space industry with broad control over space logistics, Earth observation from satellites, communications, ground stations and complex data analysis; and cooperate with other industry players to develop customer-oriented businesses and find solutions for the benefit of humanity as a whole. Not only will this reduce costs for customers looking for integrated solutions, it will also advance the Noosphere concept as a way of thinking and spread these values even further in the industry.
VIA SATELLITE: Finally, what does the rest of 2021 look like as you seek to make these space ambitions a reality?
Polyakov: These are great times for Noosphere Ventures companies. Firefly has closed its Series A of investments and is our first unicorn, valued at over $ 1 billion and with plans to grow into a multi-billion dollar company by the end of the year. Firefly also aims to launch Alpha in the coming months. We are also working on putting our first constellation of satellites into orbit in 2022. There are also a number of big contracts coming up, which I cannot disclose yet. But I can say with confidence that 2021 is indeed a watershed year for us.