Spire Global is a space-to-cloud CubeSat satellite operator that is specialized in the tracking of unique data sets from the Earth powered by a large constellation of small LEO satellites (nano-satellites), the Low Earth Multi-Use Receiver (LEMUR) CubeSat platform. Spire analyzes data from the tracking of maritime, aviation and weather patterns.
The company operates a fleet of more than 110 CubeSats, the second largest commercial constellation by number of satellites and the largest by number of sensors. The satellites are integrally designed and built by Spire. It has launched more than 140 satellites to orbit since the creation of the company in 2012.
Spire Global is headquartered in San Francisco, USA and has offices in Boulder, Washington in the USA, Glasgow in the UK, Luxembourg and Singapore.
Spire Global was originally known as NanoSatisfi, Inc. that was established in 2012 in San Francisco, USA. Three International Space University Graduates, Peter Platzer, Jeroen Cappaert and Joel Spark started the ArduSat projectto ‘democratize access to space’. ArduSat was partly financed thru the public crowdfunding platfom KickStarter and raised 100,000 USD.
In 2013 Spire partnered with Lemnos Labs in order to raise additional capital required for the manufacturing of the ArduSat-1 and ArduSat-2 (1U CubeSat) satellites. In February 2013 funds of 1.5million USD were raised by Investment and space companies such as Shasta Ventures, Lemnos Labs, E-merge, Grishin Robotics, and Beamonte Investments.
In November 2013 both ArduSat-1 and ArduSat-X were successfully released from the Japanese Kibō Experiment Module of the ISS and quickly started transmitting data to Spire servers.
Following this experimentation, Spire engineers opted to focus on 3U nanosatellites to start porting more complex payloads In June 2014 the first iteration of its standard satellite format, LEMUR-1, was launched with the Dnepr rocket, a modified Ukrainian missile known as the R-36M operated by ICS Kosmotras.
In July 2014 Spire Global announced another 25 million USD of funding that was led by Venture Capitalists. In August 2014 the company announced that ArduSat would be spun-off of the company and would focus exclusively on educational technology in partnership with U.S. high schools. Also, in 2014, Spire opened its Singapore office and started steadily increasing its network of ground stations.
LEMUR Satellite Constellation
LEMUR-2 is the initial constellation of low-Earth orbiting satellites built by Spire. These satellites carry two payloads for meteorology (SENSE payload) and ship AIS traffic tracking (STRATOS payload). Later satellites, beginning with the 78th satellite launched, carry also the AirSafe ASD-B payload to track airplanes.
The LEMUR-2 satellites are launched in small batches as secondary payloads on various rocket boosters executed by reputed launch providers:
- On September 28th 2015 the first four more LEMUR-2 satellites were launched as a piggy-back on the AstroSat mission on a PSLV launcher, operated by ISRO from India.
- Spire’s second batch of LEMUR-2 satellites was launched on March 22nd 2016 with the Cygnus CRS-6 cargo ship atop an Atlas V booster operated by ULA to be launched to the ISS. The mission was flown for Orbital ATK (Lockheed Martin) under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. With a payload of more than 16,000 pounds it was the heaviest payload to date launched on an Atlas V.
- Four of the satellites were deployed from the ISS airlock, five of them directly from the NanoRacks NRCSD-E deployer on the Cygnus vehicle. Deployment of the ISS satellites began on May 18th 2016. Four of the five other satellites were deployed on June 22nd from Cygnus, but the fifth failed to deploy and re-entered together with Cygnus.
- The third batch of four satellites was launched on September 17th 2016 on an Antares 230 rocket booster operated by Orbital ATK (Lockheed Martin) in a NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD, NRCSD-E deployer on the Cygnus CRS-5 cargo craft to be deployed after the departure from the ISS.
- A fourth batch of four LEMUR CubeSats was launched in February 2017 on a H-IIB launch vehicle operated by MHI Launch Services from Japan. The batch was transported with a HTV (H-2 Transfer Vehicle) or Kounotori and was launched to the ISS to be deployed from there.In February 2017 eight more satellites followed on a bulk CubeSat launch on an Indian PSLV operated by ISRO.
- In April 2017, four more LEMUR CubeSats followed on the Cygnus CRS-7 mission, launched on an Antares launcher operated by Orbital ATK (Lockheed Martin).
- Another batch of eight LEMUR CubeSats was launched on June 23rd 2017 on an PSLV rocket operated by ISRO from India.
- Another eight were launched on July 14th, 2017 on a Russian Soyuz-2-1a Fregat rocket with 73 CubeSats, operated by GK Launch Services, from the Baikonur launch site in Kazachstan. One of the CubeSats was deployed in a wrong and usable orbit.
- Spire Global scheduled a launch of another eight LEMUR-2 CubeSats into orbit on the ORS 5 (Operationally Responsive Space 5) or SensorSat mission on an Orbital ATK Minotaur-4/Orion-38 (a.k.a. OSP-2 Peacekeeper SLV) rocket, but had to cancel the launch due to legal issues concerning the restriction on the use of excess ballistic missile assets for commercial payloads.
- On November 12th, 2017 Spire launched another eight satellites onboard of the Cygnus CRS-8 transport vehicle on Orbital ATK’s Antares-230 rocket, to be deployed after the Cygnus departs the ISS.
- On November 28th 20-17 another batch of ten CubeSat satellites was launched as co-passengers on a Soyuz-2-1b Fregat rocket, operated by GK Launch Services but were lost due to an upper stage problem.
On January 12th 2018 a batch of six satellites was launched on a PSLV rocket operated by ISRO from India.
- Two LEMUR CubeSats were launched on January 21st 2018 on the second launch of the Electron KS launcher operated by Rocket Lab.
- Four more satellites were orbited on February 1st 2018 on a Soyuz-2-1a Fregat, executed by GK Launch Services, from the Baikonur launch site in Kazachstan.
- On May 21st 2018 four satellites were launched onboard of the Orbital ATK’s Cygnus CRS-9 space craft on an Antares-230 rocket to be deployed after the Cygnus departs the ISS. These were the first LEMUR-2 satellites enabled to receive Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) signals for Aircraft.
- Two satellites were launched on November 11th, 2018 on an Electron launcher, operated by launch provider Rocket Lab from the launch base on the Mahai Peninsula in New Zealand.
- Four more LEMUR CubeSats followed on November 29th 2018 on a PSLV rocket operated by ISRO from India. Two of them were sponsored by ESA under the ARTES Pioneer program.
- On December 27th 2018, eight LEMUR CubeSats were launched on a Soyuz-2-1a Fregat, operated by GK Launch Services from the Vostochny Cosmodrome launch site in Kazachstan.
- On April 1st 2019 four LEMUR’s were launched on a PSLV rocket operated by ISRO from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India.
- Another eight LEMUR CubeSats were launched on July 5th 2019 on a Soyuz-2-1b Fregat launcher operated by GK Launch Services.
- Four LEMURs CubeSats were launched in December 11th 2019 on a PSLV rocket operated by ISRO.
- On September 2nd 2020 launch operator Arianespace launched eight LEMUR CubeSats on their Vega launcher from the Kourou Spaceport in French Guiana. Two of the satellites failed to deploy and re-entered with the upper stage.
- In September 2020 four LEMUR CubeSats were launched on a Soyuz-2-1b Fregat operated by GK Launch Services.
- Six LEMURs were launched on June 30th 2021 on a Falcon 9 v1.2 rocket operated by launch operator SpaceX. Two CubeSats were deployed directly from the launch vehicle, three from Sherpa-FX 2 and one CubeSat from Sherpa-LTE 1, both free flying satellite deployer developed by Spaceflight, Inc.
- On April 29th 2021 Spire successfully deployed two new satellites into its LEMUR constellation. Launch operator Arianespace launched its Vega rocket and brought Spire to 143 total satellites launched, with more than 110 currently in orbit. This is the second launch of 2021 for Spire and 30th launch overall.
|# satellites||Mission||Launch Date||Launcher||Launch Operator|
|ArduSat-1||HTV/Kounotori-4||11/19/13||H-IIB||MHI Launch S. Japan|
|ArduSat-X||HTV/Kounotori-4||11/19/13||H-IIB||MHI Launch S. Japan|
|8||OA-6||03/22/16||Atlas V||ULA USA|
|1||Deploy faulure||03/23/16||Atlas V||ULA USA|
|4||Cygnus CRS-5||10/17/16||Antares 230||Orbital ATK/LM USA|
|4||OA-7||04/18/17||Atlas V||ULA USA|
|8||Kanopus-V-1K||07/14/17||Soyuz-2||GK Launch Russia|
|8||Launch failure||11/12/17||Antares 230||Orbital ATK/LM USA|
|8||Meteor-M 2-1||11/28/17||Soyuz-2||GK Launch Russia|
|2||Still Testing||01/21/18||Electron||Rocket Lab NZ|
|8||Kanopus-V||12/27/18||Soyuz-2||GK Launch Russia|
|8||Meteor-M 2-2||07/05/19||Soyuz-2||GK Launch Russia|
|4||Gonets-Mx||09/28/20||Soyuz-2||GK Launch Russia|
|8||Transporter-1||01/24/21||Falcon 9||SpaceX USA|
|5||Transporter-2||06/30/21||Falcon 9||SpaceX USA|
|4||Transporter-3||01/13/22||Falcon 9||SpaceX USA|
In November 2021 the company signed an agreement with CubeSat satellite launch deployer NanoRacks for the deployment of two 0.3U CubeSat satellites in what was to become “the first U.S. Commercial Satellite Deployment from the International Space Station (ISS). The satellite, named FEES2 (Flexible Experimental Embedded Satellite-2), was developed by the Italian company GP Advanced Projects and is approximately the thickness of a cherry. It will be one of the smallest trackable objects deployed directly from ISS.
In late November 2021, Spire acquired exactEarth, Ltd, a leading provider of global maritime vessel data for ship tracking and maritime situational awareness solutions. After the merger, exactEarth will be fully owned by Spire and will become a subsidiary operating from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.
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www.spacewatch.global edition September 15th, 2021