Capella Space
Company typePrivate
IndustryEarth Observation
FoundedMarch 2016; 8 years ago (March 2016)
  • Payam Banazadeh
  • Will Woods
HeadquartersSan Francisco, California, U.S.
Area served
Key people
Frank Backes (CEO)
ProductsHigh-Resolution (sub-0.5m) SAR satellite
Imagery and geospatial solutions

Capella Space is an American space company with satellite and declassified SAR data solutions for government and commercial use. It offers space-based radar Earth observation satellites equipped with synthetic-aperture radar that can collect imagery through clouds and at night.[1] The company is based in San Francisco, California with offices in Washington, D.C., and Louisville, Colorado. It was founded by Payam Banazadeh, a former engineer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, and William Walter Woods.[2]

The company was founded in 2016, has more than 200 employees (January 2024), and raised venture capital from investors such as Canaan Partners, Data Collective, Pear VC and Spark Capital.[3]

Capella designs, manufactures and operates a fleet of synthetic aperture radar satellites to provide high-resolution, all-weather imagery to the U.S. government and commercial customers. Capella is launching its third-generation Acadia satellites. Sequoia, the first-generation satellite, launched in August 2020. Six second-generation Whitney satellites were launched between January 2021 and January 2022 on SpaceX Transporter rideshare missions into a polar Sun-synchronous orbit.[4] In 2023, Capella began launching its third-generation, Acadia satellites. Capella is launch agnostic, leveraging diverse launch providers to place its satellites in a variety of orbits, both mid-inclination and sun-synchronous.

As of January 2024, Capella Space had four operational satellites. It has raised about $250 million in total equity and debt financing since its founding in 2016.[5]


In 2019, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) awarded Capella a contract to study the integration of Capella's commercial radar imagery with the NRO's government-owned surveillance satellites. The U.S. Air Force awarded Capella a contract in November 2019 to incorporate the company's imagery into the Air Force's virtual reality software. Capella also has a contract with the Navy, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), earlier in 2020 to allow researchers from the U.S. government's intelligence community to assist Capella. An inter-satellite link with Inmarsat's network of geostationary communications satellites enables real-time tasking of Capella's satellites. Customers can use a self-service electronic portal and API to task a Capella satellite for a radar image.[6] In 2021, Capella received a $3 million research contract in support of the Space Development Agency's National Defense Space Architecture. Capella was chosen through a broad agency announcement.[7] In 2023, Capella was awarded a Proliferated Low Earth Orbit Satellite-Based Services (PLEO) contract through the U.S. Space Systems Command (SSC) to support SSC and the U.S. Space Force with access to SAR imagery for key missions. Capella was also awarded two Commercial Satellite Data Acquisition (CSDA) contracts with NASA to determine the suitability of Capella’s data to advance NASA’s Earth science missions: a multi-year blanket purchase agreement and an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity, multiple-award contract. This enables NASA research evaluators from across the country with easy access to Capella’s high-resolution data archive and automated tasking capabilities as they find novel new ways to monitor the Earth and the environment.

In partnership with Pacific Geomatics, Capella imagery is also now available to government offices across Canada through Canada’s National Master Standing Offers. Canadian officials have easy access to Capella’s high-quality imagery and automated tasking capabilities for a variety of use cases including monitoring natural resources, mining operations, ice flows, maritime activity and more.


Sequoia satellite

The Sequoia Earth-imaging satellite was originally supposed to launch as a secondary payload on the Indian rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in late 2019, but the mission was postponed, prompting Capella to move the satellite to a Falcon 9 rocket of SpaceX, according to Payam Banazadeh. It was booked to fly as a rideshare passenger on the Falcon 9 launch with Argentina's SAOCOM 1B radar observation satellite in late March 2020. But that launch was also delayed at the request of Argentine's space agency (CONAE) as travel and work restrictions were implemented at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. That left Capella looking for another ride for Sequoia.[8]

Capella had previously signed a contract with Rocket Lab for a dedicated launch for a future satellite, and Banazadeh said the company decided instead to put Sequoia on the Rocket Lab mission. Rocket Lab encountered delays after an Electron launch failed on 4 July 2020. Meanwhile, SAOCOM 1B launch preparations resumed and the Argentina satellite lifted off earlier on 30 August 2020 at 23:18:00 UTC, hours before the Rocket Lab mission with Sequoia, on 31 August 2020 at 03:05:47 UTC.[8] The Electron launcher delivered Sequoia to a 525 km orbit, inclined 45.0°. Sequoia has a launch weight of 100 kg.

Whitney satellites

Six Whitney satellites were originally planned. The first two (Capella-3 and Capella-4) were launched on the Falcon 9 Transporter-1 rideshare mission to a Sun-synchronous orbit on 24 January 2021.[4]

Capella-6 (Whitney-4) was launched as a rideshare on Starlink V1.0 L26 on 15 May 2021.[9]

Capella-5 (Whitney-3) was launched as a rideshare on the mission Transporter-2 on 30 June 2021.[10]

Capella-7 and Capella-8 were launched as a rideshare on the mission Transporter-3 on 13 January 2022.

Capella-9 (Whitney-7) and Capella-10 (Whitney-8), two additional satellites in this series, to be launched no earlier than 10 January 2023.[11]

Acadia satellites

In August 2022 the company announced the development of a new generation of SAR satellites, called "Acadia". These new satellites represent an improvement from Capella's previous satellite generations with increased radar bandwidth from 500 MHz to 700 MHz, and will be able to provide better resolution, higher imaging quality and shorter times between customer orders and delivery. They are equipped with optical communication terminals (OCTs) making Capella Space the first commercial SAR company to demonstrate Optical Inter-Satellite Links.[12] In early 2023, Capella announced a multi-launch agreement with Rocket Lab for four dedicated launches, including a launch of Capella's first Acadia satellite. The launch of the first satellite took place on 23 August 2023 at 23:45 UTC.[13]

List of satellites[14][15][16]
Name Capella-1 Capella-2 Capella-3 Capella-4 Capella-5 Capella-6 Capella-7 Capella-8 Capella-9 Capella-10
Denali Sequoia Whitney-1 Whitney-2 Whitney-3 Whitney-4 Whitney-5 Whitney-6 Whitney-7 Whitney-8
Launch date 3 Dec 2018 31 Aug 2020 24 Jan 2021 24 Jan 2021 30 Jun 2021 15 May 2021 13 Jan 2022 13 Jan 2022 16 Mar 2023 16 Mar 2023
Launch Vehicle Falcon 9 B5 Electron Falcon 9 B5 Falcon 9 B5 Falcon 9 B5 Falcon 9 B5 Falcon 9 B5 Falcon 9 B5 Electron Electron
Inclination (degrees) 97.7 45.1 97.5 97.4 97.5 53.0 97.5 97.5 44.0 44.0
Decay date 25 Jan 2023 28 Feb 2023 26 Feb 2023 8 Apr 2023 23 Feb 2023 29 Mar 2024 26 Aug 2023 6 Sept 2023
List of satellites[17][18]
Name Capella-11 Capella-12 Capella-13 Capella-14 Capella-15 Capella-16
Acadia-1 Acadia-2 Acadia-3 Acadia-4 Acadia-5 Acadia-6
Launch date 23 Aug 2023 19 Sep 2023 2024 7 April 2024 2024 2024
Launch Vehicle Electron Electron Electron Falcon 9 Falcon 9 Falcon 9
Inclination (degrees) 53.0 Launch failure 53.0 45.4 97.0 97.0
Decay date

See also


  1. ^ "DIUx, the Defense Department unit that funds Silicon Valley's space industry to help detect a North Korean attack — Quartz". Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Capella Space plans to launch imaging satellites that can see through clouds using orbital radar — Quartz". Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  3. ^ "Capella Space Corp". Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Capella 2, ..., 7 (Sequoia, Whitney)". Retrieved 13 May 2021.
  5. ^ Michael Sheetz (10 January 2023). "Capella Space raises $60 million from fund run by billionaire entertainment exec Thomas Tull". Retrieved 10 July 2023.
  6. ^ "Rocket Lab returns to service with successful launch for Capella". Spaceflight Now. 31 August 2020. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
  7. ^ "Capella Space wins research contract from U.S. Space Development Agency". SpaceNews. 17 June 2021. Retrieved 7 October 2021.
  8. ^ a b "Mission Status Center: Rocket launches Capella's first commercial radar satellite". Spaceflight Now. 30 August 2020. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  9. ^ "Starlink V1 L26 & Rideshares". Retrieved 13 May 2021.
  10. ^ Lentz, Danny (29 June 2021). "SpaceX successfully launches Transporter 2 mission with 88 satellites". NASASpaceFlight. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  11. ^ "FCC LIcense Application SAT-MOD-20220919-00111". FCC. 19 September 2022. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  12. ^ "Capella Space Unveils Next Generation Satellite with Enhanced Imagery Capabilities and Communication Features". Capella Space (Press release). 22 August 2022. Retrieved 23 August 2023.
  13. ^ Foust, Jeff (23 August 2023). "Rocket Lab reuses engine on Electron launch". Retrieved 23 August 2023.
  14. ^ "Satellite Catalog". CelesTrak.
  15. ^ "Capella 1 (Capella Denali)". Gunter's Space Page.
  16. ^ "Capella 2, ..., 9 (Sequoia, Whitney)". Gunter's Space Page.
  17. ^ "Satellite Catalog". CelesTrak.
  18. ^ "Capella 11, ..., TBD (Acadia)". Gunter's Space Page. 5 December 2023. Retrieved 6 December 2023.