GHGSat has signed a deal with Spire Global to host at least three methane-tracking payloads. The deal, announced at the World Satellite Business Week, will have GHGSat move away (at least partially) from their previous strategy of owning their own satellites, and shift towards putting payloads onto Spire satellites. Spire will be launching three 16U satellites in 2023 that will each carry one of GHGSat’s payloads.
Methane emissions are an important cause of climate change, having over 80 times the impact of an equivalent amount of CO2. GHGSat’s technology uses satellite-based hyperspectral imaging to track methane emissions in the atmosphere. They can locate and measure methane emissions from industrial sites, from agriculture, and from other sources — allowing businesses and governments to pinpoint key emitters and make changes to reduce their climate impact.
As outlined in recent SpaceQ coverage, GHGSat now has a fleet of six SmallSats with the launch of three satellites in May, and have announced that they’ve hit a new milestone with over 100 methane emission events detected. Their current constellation consists of six satellites, which were built and integrated at Toronto’s Space Flight Laboratory (SFL). SFL also handles launch logistics and works with GHGSat to manage in-flight operations.
Spire, in turn, provides space-based data, analytics and space services including hosting other company’s payloads, using a “subscription model that eliminates the high upfront cost of building and maintaining infrastructure in space.” In the case of customers like GHGSat they handle “end-to-end management, from manufacturing to launch to satellite operations.”
In an interview, GHGSat CEO Stephane Germain said that his company was focused on exploiting all options for getting their payloads into orbit, and this deal with Spire is a part of that strategy. He said that the company was focusing on their core business, and that “we know how to be a satellite operator, but it’s not our business: our business is to deliver data, insights, and emissions intelligence to our customers.” He added that “as we continue to grow our constellation and grow the number of satellites and payloads we have on orbit, this is a model we wanted to explore.”
He also emphasized that “it’s still the same payloads” as the ones found on their satellites integrated by SFL. This is “strictly a satellite-as-a-service deal.”
GHGSat is focused on integrating the Spire deal into their existing business plan. As previously mentioned, they’d planned to put up seven more payloads: GHGSat-C6 through C11 would have been methane-tracking SmallSats, while C12 would be also able to track carbon dioxide emissions. Their next three satellites (C6, C7, and C8) are still being integrated by SFL for a launch with SpaceX in the next few months. The next three payloads, which would have been GHGSat-C9 through C11, will be part of Spire’s satellites. Germain said that they’re still deciding how they’re going to handle the payload that was going to be GHGSat-C12.
When asked about their future with Space Flight Laboratory and the possibility of other independent satellites, he said that they’re also keeping their options open. Germain said that they were “very pleased with the performance of our SFL satellites…they are excellent satellites and I highly recommend [Space Flight Laboratory] to any operator that wants to launch their own satellites.” He said that the Spire deal was more about “scaling to the next level,” and to “make sure that we explored alternative models that might be able to scale more rapidly than what SFL can do.”
For their part, Spire Co-Founder and General Manager Joel Spark said that “we’re proud that GHGSat chose to leverage Spire’s proven space platform, end-to-end manufacturing facility, global ground station network and mission operations system to efficiently scale its constellation,” adding that “taking the complexity out of space so that great companies like GHGSat can focus on their core mission…is exactly why we developed our Space Services offering.”