The Galician brothers (Clément, Jonathan and Benjamin) “depotent” aboard Unseenlabs, the Rennes startup they created in 2015. After having launched two radio frequency signal detection satellites BRO-5 (Breizh Reconnaissance Orbiter-5) last January and BRO-7 in early April aboard two Falcon 9 (SpaceX) launchers, Unseenlabs now has a seventh satellite orbit overnight Monday through Tuesday by Rocket Lab’s Electron (BRO-6). Launched a month apart, these two satellites will add to the firepower of the constellation of Unseenlabs satellites dedicated so far to the maritime market. Since 2019, the French startup, which claims to be the European leader in detecting radio frequency (RF) signals from space, has been expanding the largest constellation of its kind.
Unseenlabs facing the launcher crisis
With two new RF satellites in orbit, Unseenlabs will logically improve their service and increase their sales. “For customers and companies, the gain is immediateunderlines the CEO and co-founder of the startup Clément Galic in an interview with La Tribune. We will offer more return visits and therefore more data available to our customers. These two new satellites systematically improve our entire service.”. And Clément Galic wants to go fast, really fast. It intends to launch another three satellites by the end of the year to have an additional commercial strike force with a constellation of 10 satellites, then to“twenty in two years”. However, the glaring lack of launchers currently available could thwart this goal in the very short term.
The deployment “will depend on the launchers available”, explains Clément Galic. With the current crisis, it is not necessarily over, but we are ready. We are not slowing down the deployment of our constellation. Quite the opposite. Accelerating but not going as fast as we would like.”
SpaceX and Rocket Lab, but also Arianespace. “These are really the three operators we trust”, specifies the Unseenlabs boss. However, Arianespace is currently experiencing an acute crisis with the shutdown of the Soyuz in Kourou and Baïkonour due to the war in Ukraine and the uncertainties of Vega with the arrival of Vega C and mainly the cessation of the manufacture of the engines of the AVUM upper stage of Vega and Vega C in Ukraine by Youjnoye company in Dnipro. Finally, the scheduled shutdown of Ariane 5 puts enormous pressure on the commissioning of Ariane 6 expected towards the end of the year but reasonably expected in 2023. However, Clément Galic wants “seriously focusing on Ariane 6 and using it for a variety of reasons. We’re also looking forward to seeing Vega C take off. These are great features”.
Why such a strategy? The current goes well between Unseenlabs and Arianespace. “We’ve already done a campaign with them, which worked, observes Clemente Galic. We get along very well with Ariane’s teams. Its proposals and its ability to access space are perfectly suited to a society like ours. They really made that way towards us. It’s very positive”. In addition, Unseenlabs discovered the Stations of the Cross to launch a satellite outside of France. “Exporting a satellite outside of France is very complicatedhe watches. With all the risks that this also entails, we would like to do without it.”. However, as Clément Galic reminds us about Arianespace, “technologically it’s good, but it doesn’t have enough launchers”. Result, the marketing company for European launchers releases “does not cover all our needs”.
“With the arrival of Vega C and Ariane 6, we hope that these two launchers will improve access to space. This is not the case today and that’s why we don’t use Ariane all the time, but our desire remains to launch on Ariane “, explains Clement Galic.
Maritime: a market between 2 and 4 billion dollars
In terms of development, Unseenlabs is on the cusp of breakneck growth. “We are experiencing growth of more than 100% per year. It is a very fast acceleration. Besides, the market is there”, assures the co-founder of Unseenlabs. In 2021, the startup reached more than 5 million euros in turnover. It should logically break the 10 million euro bar in 2022. The commissioning of two new satellites will allow Unseenlabs to win more, possibly larger, contracts and thus increase its turnover. But also profitability despite the investments made to implement a constellation. “We didn’t get into difficulties with the deployment of new satellites. Because the commercial benefit is fast”explains Clement Galic.
Unseenlabs, as its only American competitor HawkEye 360, is already benefiting, and will benefit even more in the future from the explosion of the RF market, valued between 2 and 4 billion dollars in all maritime activities (surveillance and State action in the sea, insurance, shipowners, oil and gas, NGOs… What about the defense market? Unseenlabs guarantees that it is growing rapidly. Especially abroad. The company receives requests in all areas where maritime geopolitical, strategic and economic interests are omnipresent , such as the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the China Sea, the whole of northern Europe and, finally, the polar ice caps. “All these complex areas also affect maritime transport, starting, for example, with congestion in some ports”he says.
In France, the Ministry of the Armed Forces has long been aware of the operational added value of a capability spatial signal intelligence. That’s why he developed and put into orbit the constellation of three CERES satellites. However, Unseenlabs believes it has its place in the French market. Private companies can provide additional capacity to the ministry. Thus, the startup is already working with the French Navy. “Our goal is to show that we have clean and useful data to complement” the capacity of the ministry. And it works with the national navy. “We worked cleanly and hand in hand with the French Navy to develop suitable products. And it paid off”says Clement Galic.
New target markets
The RF market is incredibly exciting for Unseenlabs. “RF has good taste to create new markets”cheers the head of Unseenlab, who is in the aftermath. “There are all the other markets that we can open with RF. The maritime market is just a first step. It allowed us to establish our credibility. It is a very important market, which exists, but we already have many projects in mind to develop new products”. What ? Clément Galic does not wish to reveal these areas of development for the time being. “We’re working on it and will announce when the products are ready. It’s our way of doing things”, he explains. Unseenlabs could launch into new markets very quickly. From 2023. “It’s the goal”ensures.
But already, Unseenlabs is also interested in markets related to the detection of radio frequency signals on land. “We will also look at what is happening on land. Our technologies are perfectly suited to bring added value to new markets beyond the maritime industry.”, he agrees to explain. Markets pursued may be land transport, identifying human activities in hard-to-reach areas, monitoring during natural disasters, or monitoring terrestrial networks. “There’s a lot of business that can be done with RF. This technology globally makes it possible to measure human activity.”he remembers.
Getting stronger in data processing
Finally, Unseenlabs wants to strengthen and develop the entire analytical part (data analysis, processing and advice of spatial data) of RF. An emerging market “giant”, believes Clément Galic. Especially in the United States. “It’s impressive to see how far the United States is ahead of us in terms of using spatial data”tells Clément Galic, who was present at the GEOINT fair in Denver (April 24th to 27th). “All companies involved in data processing now have in mind doing projects with RF. It has become almost essential”he watches.
Rennes’ startup, which is already in this market, is developing naturally in its war chest, RF. However, the startup from Rennes also wants to partner in this area with companies to reach many more customers. “Unseenlabs brings the RF brick to partners, who we believe are the best in this fieldhe says. They therefore have access to our very high quality RF in their solutions and thus can complete their data.”. Win-win. The Unseenlabs nugget is really on a launch pad.