Artemis 1 Mission

Iridian looks to capitalize on LEO constellations market

Credit: Iridian Spectral Technologies.

For Iridian Spectral Technologies, a new communications consortium may provide marketing opportunities for a discreet market.

Iridian’s website hails Iridian as the “leading provider of optical filter solutions”, and a conversation between SpaceQ and Jason Palidwar, account manager at Iridian, revealed a long history providing a wide variety of optical filter solutions for their clients: everything from 3D cinema glasses and filter wheels, to beam splitter cubes, to excitation filters for bioanalytical spectroscopy.

Their most important market is in telecommunications. Palidwar was proud of their decades-long history in developing and manufacturing optical filters for terrestrial telecommunications. It’s no surprise then, that they’ve also taken their place in space, developing and manufacturing optical filters for satellite-based communications, as well as Earth observation and environmental monitoring.

This puts them in an excellent position regarding the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications rush. A variety of companies, including Telesat, OneWeb and SpaceX are working to build the constellations of hundreds, if not thousands of small LEO satellites that will provide high-speed, low-latency, worldwide satellite communications, and Optical Satcom is the superior way to provide the throughput, low latency and robustness needed to make these networks work.

Thanks to their enormous breadth of expertise and capability, Iridian can develop and manufacture filters with the precision and robustness needed for the large optical emitters and receivers that link these LEO constellations together. Palidwar is confident that, no matter who actually “wins” the race to build the LEO constellations, Iridian will be ready to supply the optical filters that they’ll need.

Optical filter discretion

Our conversation with Palidwar revealed a real marketing challenge, however: they can’t discuss their clients.

Iridian does not develop or sell standardized products. Palidwar said that they’re focused on fulfilling clients’ specific needs, and that “what matters is the requirement”. Most of their customers desire discretion regarding Iridian’s work, and Iridian provides it. Iridian’s work is almost always subject to tight non-disclosure agreements.

Iridian has been very successful under these conditions. Palidwar noted that they process “literally hundreds of RFQ’s (requests for quotes) a month” submitted by potential clients. Iridian isn’t looking for notoriety or fame, and aren’t marketing specific predetermined products. Palidwar said that they’re “agnostic to the end need”, and emphasized that they “respond to the customer’s needs.” They’re client-focused.

Still, regardless of Iridian’s history of success, it is a real challenge to market your services when you have scant few case studies or testimonials to show.

Chance encounter with OSC

It’s that marketing challenge that helped prompt them to enter the Optical Satcom Consortium (OSC).

A chance meeting between Jason Palidwar and the Consortium’s Ryan Anderson in 2018 — Jason was picking up a signed copy of one of former astronaut Dr. David William’s children’s books from Anderson — led to an informal introduction to the Consortium and an invitation for Iridian to participate.

Canada badly needs new satellite communications capabilities. Many of Canada’s rural and Indigenous communities have little to no Internet access. LEO constellations could change all that, delivering 21st-century connectivity and low-latency, high speed, high throughput data to even the most remote Canadian communities.

The OSC is a new initiative that is focused on making it happen. OSC members are developing the technologies that will help provide these services to Canadians across the country. If they’re successful, they could affect LEO satcom for decades. Since those solutions will require large-scale optical filters, Iridian is uniquely positioned to help.

OSC: A marketing solution

Palidwar brought the news back to the Iridian executive team, and they agreed to join. The Consortium provides several opportunities to address Iridian’s marketing challenge.

Senior consortium members will be looking for the kind of expertise and experience that Iridian can provide to accomplish the Consortium’s goals. When Iridian succeeds in fulfilling those goals, Consortium members will receive demonstrated proof that Iridian can fulfill their own requirements. It’s likely many of them will become potential Iridian clients for future non-consortium related business.

Membership in the Consortium also raises Iridian’s profile. While the Consortium’s work is still somewhat quiet, it’s still led by public governmental institutions like NRC. Palidwar said that this will be “a good way for us to get more visibility among the players in this market” — and all without any concern of breaking a client NDA.

In all respects, it’s a win for Iridian, their reputation, their business and their marketing.

Early days

These are still early days for the Consortium. Palidwar said that they were still determining their goals, challenges, and requirements. There are many more decisions to be made by the Consortium’s upper tier members.

For Palidwar and the Iridian team, though, there’s no reason to hurry. When they’re needed, they’ll be there.

About Craig Bamford

Craig started writing for SpaceQ in 2017 as their space culture reporter, shifting to Canadian business and startup reporting in 2019. He is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, and has a Master's Degree in International Security from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He lives in Toronto.

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