map of military vehicles near the Belarus/Ukraine border

Expanding Our Investment in Earth Observation Technologies

As the crisis in Ukraine first threatened to boil over into physical conflict, we got our first look at what might come from the sky. From satellites flying in low Earth orbit, we could see a traffic jam stretching 40 kilometers from Belgorod, Russia to Ukraine – it was Russian troops marching toward the border. This was the first visual evidence of the devastation and tragedy that was about to unfold – seen from above many hours before any news reports spoke of explosions in Ukraine.

map of military vehicles near the Belarus/Ukraine border

Over the last few months, we’ve seen in real-time the incredible potential for commercial companies to support essential government and national security missions. Cybersecurity, safety, security and privacy technologies from the commercial sector have proven their abilities to bolster these missions with their innovation and insights and helped support essential warfare and humanitarian needs.

Earth observation technologies like synthetic aperture radar (SAR) are a great example of this. SAR sensors can penetrate all weather conditions – clouds, fog, smoke, rain – and capture clear imagery in darkness or poor light conditions, providing unparalleled insight into what is happening anywhere on the globe at any given moment.

SAR is what gave us the initial bird’s eye view of Russian soldiers making their way to the Ukrainian border, but it also has much broader applications for important world issues like climate change, critical infrastructure monitoring and natural disaster response. SAR, for instance, can be used to view into the extent of damage from a devastating storm or understand flooding patterns after a hurricane. Having these insights can help direct disaster response efforts, or pinpoint potentially damaged bridges or other infrastructure before someone gets hurt. SAR also has interesting use cases in environmental and humanitarian management, giving us unique insights into shoreline erosion, changes in glacial patterns, destruction of forests, and other essential issues. It can also help us gain insights into harmful issues like illegal mining or tracking critical infrastructure like pipelines and bridges for degradation and sagging – potentially avoiding a serious catastrophe.

NightDragon has long believed in space as a core sector of the overall cybersecurity, safety, security and privacy (CSSP) market. As we look towards the holy grail of multi-signal intelligence and enabling government and commercial customers through satellite innovation, SAR technology is an essential piece of this intelligence and innovation puzzle.

For this reason, we are thrilled to announce NightDragon is leading a $97 million investment in Capella Space, a leading company in the SAR Earth observation market, alongside existing investors DCVC and Cota Capital.

Capella provides on-demand 50cm high-resolution SAR Earth observation imagery products. The company’s SAR sensors are deployed across its seven satellites in orbit today, with more satellites ready to launch across 2022 and 2023. Capella’s technology can capture imagery through any weather pattern at any time of day, improving decisions about commerce, conservation, and security on Earth. With Capella’s timely, reliable, and accurate data, decision-makers across defense and intelligence agencies, humanitarian organizations, shipping and supply chain companies and other industries are fully enabled with comprehensive and unique data to quickly know what is happening on the ground to make mission-critical decisions that may significantly impact bottom lines or save human lives.

The Capella Console, the company’s self-serve, automated satellite tasking platform, is a revolutionary and industry-first offering from Capella that enables customers to easily request and download images and, if desired, analytic work product, directly without any human intervention. This type of commercial innovation is a game changer for an industry that is traditionally known for frustratingly long lead-times and high costs for obtaining data. Thanks to the Capella Console, satellite imagery can be obtained much more quickly and cost-effectively today than ever before. Additionally, the company’s small satellites can upgrade much faster than their dinosaur predecessors, enabling them with the newest technologies to deliver frequent, fast, high-resolution imagery and insights.

The use cases for this type of technology are clear. In our current crisis, Capella works directly with the U.S. and Ukrainian governments, as well as commercial entities, to provide timely data and assistance around the current conflict. In fact, Capella was the company referenced earlier that was able to track the actions of Russian troops before they crossed the border into Ukraine. However, this is just one of many use cases for this company across defense, maritime, disaster response, insurance and more that we believe lead to an incredible opportunity for cutting-edge innovation to support government and commercial missions. The result has been strong growth for the company. Capella has seen its revenues double over the last twelve months and expects to more than triple revenue over the next year with more than 400% growth in customer count.

Capella will use this latest funding to meet growing demand for its high-resolution SAR imagery, as well as expand its analytics and imaging offerings and launch the company’s next generation of newly-designed satellites—furthering its mission to provide access to frequent, timely and high-quality SAR imagery products to customers around the world. This work has already begun, as Capella launched three new integrated analytics capabilities recently for Vessel Detection, Change Detection and Global Change Monitoring.

In addition to capital, NightDragon’s people, programs, partners and playbooks will help bolster Capella’s existing strategies, including accelerating its federal go-to-market efforts through NightDragon Government Services (NDGS) and expanding their partnerships with key companies in priority channels for them.

We view SAR technology as complementary to our existing space portfolio, which includes great companies like HawkEye 360, the world’s leading commercial provider of space-based radio frequency (RF) data and analytics. These types of technologies can provide customers with amazing and impactful insights into activities on Earth and changes in patterns of life, for the benefit of commercial entities, government agencies, and other organizations.

While Ukraine clearly shows the use cases for technologies like those from Capella Space today, we believe the opportunity in front of them is immense. We look forward to working closely with founder and CEO Payam Banazadeh and the entire team on this incredible mission.