Satellite imagery provider and technology company Capella Space on Tuesday said it has stood up a new subsidiary, Capella Federal, to better serve the federal government, in particular the classified space as demand surges for commercial satellite remote sensing imagery and data.
Capella Federal will be led Eric Traupe, who retired in 2022 from the CIA after a 22-year career with the agency, including as a senior executive within the Operations Directorate. He also served eight years as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps.
Capella builds and operates a fleet of seven synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites, which can acquire images of the Earth in all weather, and around-the-clock. San Francisco-based Capella is one of five companies under contract to the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to provide SAR imagery for intelligence needs. The NRO is Capella’s largest customer and accounts for the bulk of the company’s sales.
The new wholly-owned subsidiary “allows us to cater to some of the very specific requirements that our U.S. government customers have, mostly around security and integration of our data into their systems,” Payam Banazadeh, CEO and founder of Capella Space, told Defense Daily during a virtual interview. He added that Traupe and his team at Capella Federal have a background in government service and have the security clearances that “allows us to move fast into some of those classified work through the Capella Federal unit.”
Traupe, during the same interview, said his current staff numbers just under 10 people and includes Amy Hopkins, who previously led Capella Space’s government efforts and is now vice president and general manager of Capella Federal. His staff also includes program managers to work with government customers and technicians to help understand government needs.
The current plan is to keep the Capella Federal staff “lean” although there will be some hiring for positions in business development and market mapping, and government affairs, Traupe said.
There are several key milestones ahead for Capella Federal in 2023, the biggest being the NRO’s upcoming program of record to purchase satellite radar imagery. A request for bids for the Radar Commercial Layer (RCL) is expected this fall with awards in spring 2024, Traupe said.
“This is a huge effort for us,” he said.
The RCL program mirrors the Electro-Optical Commercial Layer (EOCL) program that NRO already manages and has awarded contracts for. BlackSky Technology [BKSY], Maxar Technologies [MAXR], and Planet Labs [PL] are all working under the 10-year EOCL contract awarded last May that is potentially worth billions of dollars.
Another milestone on Traupe’s list this year is getting the company’s classified facilities clearance to give it more opportunities to compete for and work on classified contracts. Capella Space already works on smaller classified efforts but having the cleared facilities will help the company get the larger program of record contracts over time, he said.
In January, Capella announced it had raised more than $60 million in a new funding round that it will use toward its next generation of SAR satellites that will begin launching later this year to meet increasing customer demand and to expand its intelligent analytics capabilities.
Capella also said in January that it has tripled sales since 2021 and plans on further sales growth in 2023.
The company also said on Tuesday that Clayton Hutmacher, former director of operations at U.S. Special Operations Command, will be chairman of the Capella Federal board and will also serve on the Capella Space Government Advisory Board. Capella Space has also expanded its Government Advisory Board to include retire Army Lt. Gen. and former Defense Intelligence Agency Director Robert Ashley, Jr.