SINGAPORE — Geospatial imagery and services competitors Airbus and Planet have entered into a framework agreement that could lead to “joint cooperation in new and existing markets, product offerings, sales and marketing efforts,” the two companies announced June 25.
The agreement, if taken to its logical conclusion, could help answer one of the most-asked questions in the New Space industry: Does Planet’s current business model allow for sufficient return on invested capital to survive over time? Airbus now would become the most likely strategic investor in Planet.
For now, Airbus and Planet are limiting their agreement to permitting customers access to each other’s assets, which run from the 70-centimeter-resolution Pleiades satellites operated by Airbus and Planet’s 80-centimeter-resolution SkySat satellites to the 3-meter Planet satellites, a large constellation that offers a daily revisit of the Earth’s entire landmass.
It includes access to the Airbus-operated radar Earth observation satellites and well as the 22-meter-resolution DMC constellation, the 1.5-meter Spot 6 and Spot 7 optical satellites.
Notable for its absence is Airbus’s four-satellite next-generation Continuity optical system, which includes laser communications and is designed to have a 30-centimeter resolution and to launch in 2020.
Planet operates a constellation of around 180 Dove satellites plus its sharper-resolution, higher-orbit SkySats.
In addition to providing customer access to both companies’ constellations, the agreement calls for Planet and Airbus to jointly develop “new analytic products,” the companies said in a statement.
Here is how they described their agreement:
“By combining our strengths, we will provide a key capability to address all market needs, both in terms of data and value-added products, and to best serve our clients, whatever their industry and their requirements,” said François Lombard, director of the Intelligence Business at Airbus Defence and Space.
“Airbus and Planet are truly complementary partners. Airbus brings long-standing success in serving reliable, high resolution remote sensing, and Planet brings its unique global coverage and temporal cadence, as well as agile aerospace iteration to get sensors quickly to space,” said Will Marshall, Planet’s chief executive and co-founder. “Together we will be able to deliver sophisticated offerings to fit customer needs across international markets.”