Home >> December 2020 Edition >> Year in Review 2020: Part III
Year in Review 2020: Part III
Deploy Solutions • Exolaunch • Gilat Satellite Networks

Deploy Solutions

Deploy Solutions’ vision is to build a world where every organization can use software apps powered by space data. The firm develops innovative big data and cloud software applications for organizations worldwide.

Incorporated in 2016, the privately held, boot-strapping Canadian startup initially focused on software projects and product management. In 2018, however, Founder and CEO Nick Kellett was inspired by his lifelong interest in space exploration and his involvement in organizing Space Apps Ottawa (the local version of the prestigious NASA International Space Apps Hackathon) to pivot into the space industry.

The company began extensive market research to determine how best to do that. Supported by Satellite Canada Innovation Network with government assistance, the company explored upstream and downstream market opportunities related to Earth Observation (EO) and climate change themes before identifying its market niche.

The company recognized that growing space sector activity and the severity of climate change impacts as well as the COVID invasion means that there is an ever-increasing need for “space apps” — software applications that use space data, such as EO imagery (often in conjunction with other sources of data).

However, managing this data and building downstream space apps is incredibly complex, time-consuming, and expensive — meaning that it remains a struggle to achieve the full potential of space data and get this data into the hands of end users. The market lacks a way to quickly and reliably build software which meet the business needs and provides useable insights from space data to end users.

By January of 2020, Deploy Solutions had decided to address this need. In March and April, while serving as a subcontractor, the company architected and built a prototype EO image processing pipeline in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud for a Canadian government client. The prototype featured push-button deployment, a precursor to the software factory approach Deploy is now pioneering.

At the same time, the COVID pandemic began to hit Canada. Looking for a distraction as well as to expand his network into the United Kingdom, Kellett began attending the fun and informal virtual “space bars” hosted by UK-based space marketing and strategic specialists AstroAgency — that firm assisted with the rebranding of the company to suit its new direction. With their help, Deploy Solutions officially relaunched as a space apps development company at the GeoIgnite 2020 Online conference in July. Deploy immediately set about achieving its aims, increasing its headcount in July from two full time employees to nine staff and beginning to build its unique software factory technology.

In early 2021, the minimal, viable product of the space software app factory will be available. Deploy then intends to market software solutions built using the factory approach to both the UK and Canadian geographies. Partnerships are a key element of Deploy’s go-to-market strategy, which is currently exploring and forming numerous innovation partnerships with companies in the geospatial and academic sectors in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Europe.

Part of Deploy’s ethos is to provide strong support for experiential learning, open source development, and the space community. This October, the company helped to organize the fourth annual Space Apps Ottawa event. Due to the COVID restrictions, this year marked the first time the event was entirely virtual. This made event planning extremely challenging but also offered the opportunity and incentive to work closely with the organizers in other Canadian cities, as well as the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) which provided plentiful support. Even though everyone attended remotely, COVID ultimately created a more tight-knit Canadian space apps hackathon identity than ever before.

Deploy has also been conducting a massive, ongoing project to identify how software can help reduce or mitigate the impacts of climate change. Over the past 18 months, the company has enlisted the help of more than 100 students in 20 academic institutions across Canada, the USA and Australia to perform detailed technical and market research in topics ranging from the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to mine PDF files for climate disaster guidance, to the use of gamification to encourage citizens to act. As a way of thanking the students and showcasing their work, the company has launched a “Thank You” website.

This spring, as part of the climate change research — and undeterred by the COVID-19 outbreak— Deploy conducted Zoom interviews with 115 Canadians across all provinces and territories. The interviewees included officials from the three level of Canadian government, faith-based organizations, businesses, Non-Governmental Organizations, and ordinary citizens.

As a result of the research (which is published at this direct link), the company has confirmed there is a critical communication gap between government officials, scientists and experts (“trusted authorities”), and ordinary citizens. They believe a solution is needed to overcome this communication gap and spur effective action at the individual and community grassroots level.

Using their software factory approach and technology, the company has now started to build a prototype that could help during a flood disaster and is currently arranging follow-up interviews with Canadian NGO and citizens to identify the requirements needed in the prototype.

Deploy Solutions is also forming partnerships in the Canadian and UK GIS and environmental communities to assist with the prototype, which it hopes to demonstrate at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

In a year as unsettled as 2020, Deploy Solutions has been proud to grow its own business as weil as to also provide a great learning experience for students, has contributed to the tight-knit space sector and joined the crucial struggle to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

As the world prepares for 2021, Deploy Solutions is poised to roll out its innovative space software factory, moving one step closer to a world where quality space software makes space data accessible to all.

Author Nick Kellett has taken advantage of his programming skills to live and work around the world while following developments in the space sector for nearly 30 years. With technical expertise, business credentials, and a passion for space, Nick helps businesses do great things with space data. As well as his technical expertise, he has been writing online about space exploration since 2013 on his personal blog.


Hitchhiking through the Galaxy used to be associated solely with the title of an ingenious literary comedy. Nowadays, it could be the founding principle for a serious space business with a bright future: rideshare.

Artistic rendition of Exolaunch smallsats onorbit.
Image is courtesy of the company.

 Two well-known major trends are crossbreeding and proliferating each other. First, satellites are getting ever smaller, lighter and less expensive. Components, from propulsion systems to batteries and instruments, are miniaturized, allowing spacecraft or probes of any size to be tailored to the needs of people who would have never dreamt of operating their own satellite or probe mission a couple of years ago.

The second trend is that rockets are becoming smaller, lighter, smarter, and less expensive — they are departing from the world’s launch pads almost weekly. They can deliver a few ton giant into geostationary orbit more cost effectively; and smaller launchers can deliver smaller payloads to orbit for less than $10 million. It’s all about scale: by reusing rockets, SpaceX soon wants to achieve an unprecedented launch cadence.

It is easy to imagine that such disruptions and accelerations fundamentally change the equation for any kind of space endeavor. Some call it the democratization of space; people can build payloads and launch them into orbit at a tiny fraction of the former cost. Smallsats, comprised of cubesats, microsats, nanosats, all standardized and miniaturized as well as at low cost and scalable certainly indicate space is becoming ubiquitous. Low Earth Orbit (LEO), five hundred kilometers above the Earth, is becoming a broad highway for thousands of satellites ranging in size from a refrigerator to a shoebox. The global smallsat launch revolution is underway — and it is unstoppable.

However, a smallsat cannot simply use a small rocket. Payloads must be stacked and become rather crowded... this is where a rideshare comes into the launch picture.

Exolaunch’s CarboNIX next gen deployment system for smallsats.

Exolaunch recognized this fact early-on. When Exolaunch was founded in 2013, as a spinoff from Technische Universität (TU) Berlin, SpaceX in California launched their first Falcon 9 vehicle from the Vandenberg, California, pad. The proliferation of the space launch industry was already on the horizon. For Exolaunch, the evolving business case was clear and the firm developed their rideshare business from scratch.

To date, Exolaunch has delivered 110 smallsats into orbit — roughly one fifth of the entire global, commercial smallsat launch market. Exolaunch worked with launchers with pads in French Guiana, New Zealand, Kazakhstan, and Florida, partnering on Falcon 9, Soyuz, PSLV, and Electron vehicles. The company is planning to join forces with several new launchers that are coming into play soon.

Exolaunch provides solutions for the new space industry’s leaders and space agencies, including Spire Global, NanoAvionics, Planet, Kepler Communications, Omnispace, Loft Orbital, DLR, the UAE Space Agency, multiple European universities, and many others.

Even COVID-19 could not halt the company from accelerating their business and turning the rideshare business into a flywheel. In early 2020, Exolaunch announced its first launch agreement with SpaceX to fly multiple payloads on Falcon 9, as part of SpaceX’s newly introduced SmallSat Rideshare Program. The company also announced plans to launch with Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which has placed nearly 300 smallsats, public and private, into LEO or Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO) since 2013.

In June and August of 2020, Exolaunch delivered their newly developed CarboNIX, shock-free, separation systems to deploy six SkySat microsatellites for Planet — the first time that SpaceX’s Starlink satellites had co-passengers on that firm’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Exolaunch integrates a smallsat into EXOpod.

In late September, Exolaunch managed the “Wanderlust” (Desire to Travel) mission on a Soyuz rocket and deployed 15 satellites. The mission became a stellar example of next generation, customized, on-orbit transportation because it demonstrated that Exolaunch is able to handle a large number of diverse payloads on a single launch as well as to bring each of them to their specific, individuals target orbit, via the advanced in-space transportation system.

To meet client needs, Exolaunch has developed an entire range of precise and reliable rideshare services in the firm’s labs, without external financing or outside investment. With a team composed of enthusiastic experts and engineers who are an average age of 30 years in age, the company has continued to deliver innovative products, all the while delivering exceptional results for a broad client base.

A cornucopia of cutting-edge technologies, “Made in Germany,” created and tested in-house in its own, certified facilities, include Exolaunch’s cubesat deployment system called EXOpod and a microsatellite shock-free separation system named CarboNIX, “the lowest-shock and lowest-tumbling separation system ever used in space.” The aim is to reduce the risk of damaging extremely sensitive optical and electronic payloads, guaranteeing safe operational conduct and aspiring to the highest space sustainability levels. All of this is coordinated by EXObox, the deployment sequencer that provides for the precise and safe separation of clusters of as many as 50 smallsats into their target orbits.

Exolaunch’s customers are outspoken about the quality, effectiveness, and flexibility of these fully integrated value chains.

Exolaunch integrates smallsats with the launch vehicle.

Exolaunch has been instrumental in enabling Spire to set the industry standard in the commercial aerospace sector as we work with our customers to tackle ever more frequent and extreme weather events in this era of Climate Change,” stated a global data and analytics specialist, for whom Exolaunch delivered nearly one-third of its fleet into space.

Exolaunch “is accommodating to the rapid shifts and changes that often accompany our work as a new space company,” the IoT provider Kepler Communications stated. “Not only do they provide deployment systems with a solid flight heritage, but their flexibility towards offering the most suitable launch solutions is extremely valuable to our company and customers, added the nanosatellite bus manufacturer and mission integrator, NanoAvionics.

Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA) sees the cooperation with Exolaunch as “the beginning of a new era, where the space domain is transformed into a commercial market in Europe.” And Virgin Orbit added, “(We) are naturally aligned in our ambitions to launch the global small satellite revolution, which necessitates low-cost, high-frequency access to space. Europe is on the cutting edge of science and technology when it comes to small satellites, and we’re very motivated to provide our unique launch capabilities to this rapidly growing market.”

What’s Next?

With a recently announced multi-launch agreement with SpaceX and multiple upcoming missions on SpaceX’s Falcon 9, part of SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare program, Exolaunch is again changing the pace, gearing up for the first dedicated rideshare mission with 30 smallsats from Exolaunch customers on board Falcon 9 — this launch is scheduled for January of 2021. Similar missions are to follow throughout 2021. The company also decided to increase their footprint and are planning to deploy their first US office.

Our upcoming program is another game-changer for the rideshare launch industry,” said Jeanne Medvedeva, the Vice President of Launch Services at Exolaunch. “We are able to offer our customers ever more flexible and cost-effective solutions and, with every step we make, further expand access to space.”

Jeanne Medvedeva

The rideshare revolution is definitely going full speed ahead.


Author Jeanne Medvedeva is the Vice President of Launch Services at Exolaunch. She has worked with multiple launch vehicles and rideshare missions and has helped to facilitate the launch of more than 170 smallsats for commercial companies, space agencies, government entities and scientific institutions. a Contact:  Jeanne@exolaunch.com.


Gilat Satellite Networks

There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically affected 2020, and its economic impact was felt both globally and locally. However, like others, Gilat has learned to conduct business with the pandemic and has seen some very significant accomplishments in the second half of the year. Often project execution was particularly challenging due to the pandemic, nevertheless Gilat's local teams and partners excelled in timely deployment in difficult rural terrains.

Gilat connecting remote sites in North America.

Particularly commendable were Gilat's local teams and partners in Latin America supporting nationwide enterprise applications, delivering broadband connectivity to the most remote sites in Peru and Argentina. This article will focus primarily on Gilat's 2020 remarkable success in the Cellular Backhaul over satellite segment and touch on progress in the ground segment for Non-Geostationary Orbit (NGSO) constellations, and In-Flight Connectivity (IFC), as well as summarize notable technical achievements reached over the past year.

Market Leadership in Cellular Backhaul over Satellite

Gilat continues to lead the industry in cellular backhaul over satellite reaching 44 percent market-share in modem shipments according to a report by industry analyst NSR, 2020. In addition, Gilat continued to excel achieving above 80 percent market-share in satellite backhaul for 4G/LTE installations worldwide, with this superiority even furthered by impressive 5G technical achievements.

Gilat's strategy of providing the cellular backhaul over satellite solution as a managed- service has proven successful and is beneficial to MNOs in order to expedite connectivity and get the most out of Gilat's VSAT systems. Gilat offers complete, integrated solutions that includes satellite connectivity, fully managed services, remote network operation, call center support and hub and field operations.

An end-to-end managed-service solution allows the MNOs to focus on their core competency and leave the satellite transport to the satellite experts. The MNO benefits dramatically from depending on one vendor for all its satellite backhauling needs, including the satellite capacity and SLAs. There is a substantial cost and time advantage when a single team handles both the Radio and VSAT needs. This enables a single install visit per site, single maintenance visit, and single accountability.

The MNO's involvement is only in specifying the requirements, the service level agreement and key performance indicators, as well as the required site locations and the schedule.







Gilat's satellite know-how and rural operational expertise positions Gilat as an excellent choice for turn-key projects as evidenced with significant 2020 awards: Gilat won several large managed-service deals, which included new MNOs as well as substantial contract renewals, extensions, and expansions.

In North America, Gilat had two major achievements this quarter. Gilat was awarded a large multi-year managed-service contract-renewal and expansion from a Tier-1 MNO in the United States. With this, Gilat became the MNO's sole vendor to provide end-to-end services for LTE backhauling and disaster-recovery while replacing existing satellite technologies. This significant contract was awarded to Gilat due to its proven managed service expertise and unmatched LTE over satellite technology.

More than 10 countries enjoy connectivity over the AMN network.

Gilat has also demonstrated unparalleled capabilities in the following three dimensions: technology, delivery and operation. Gilat’s superior technology ensures the required user experience and enables a smooth transition to 5G, while the delivery and day-to-day operational needs were met consistently and professionally. In addition, Gilat was awarded a three-year managed service contract by Southern Linc, a fully owned subsidiary of Southern Company, for coverage to remote areas as well as emergency response. The agreement will enable Southern Linc to use satellite transmission for backhaul services when established networks are unavailable.

Gilat satellite installations will be used to extend cellular coverage for voice and high-speed data services in remote and terrestrially challenged areas and in areas affected by severe weather. Gilat will also provide backup for terrestrial aggregation sites and an underlining level of monitoring and support for Southern Linc’s large-scale LTE network.

To win this project, Gilat demonstrated an unprecedented technical achievement and was the only vendor to answer Southern Linc’s stringent reliability requirements, including MPLS support. Gilat services will provide transparent and simplified accelerated backhauling over satellite as well as enterprise and 4G cellular traffic over MPLS. These services coupled with Gilat’s patented GTP acceleration technology are delivered with Gilat’s SkyEdge II-c platform.

In addition, Gilat continued to expand its global presence with a managed service deal with a leading MNO in Mexico. Multiple equipment deals were closed including with AMN (Africa Mobile Networks), which extended Gilat's contract for Africa's largest cellular backhaul network over satellite. AMN’s network enabled by Gilat’s technology serves multiple Tier-1 Telcos in over ten countries throughout Africa. Another important contract was secured with Kcell, Kazakhstan's largest Mobile Network Operator. Gilat will provide connectivity starting with hundreds of rural villages, in partnership with Kazakhstan’s recognized service provider, TelService LTD, to satisfy the “Digital Kazakhstan” government program.

NGSO and VHTS – Becoming a Reality

At the end of 2019, Gilat marked an outstanding achievement reaching a major landmark in fulfillment of its strategy to be a significant ground player in the VHTS and NGSO constellation market. SES selected Gilat's multi-orbit GEO/NGSO platform for its revolutionary mPOWER Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) constellation. Gilat was selected for its technological innovation and proven track record worldwide. The innovative ground network design significantly reduces the cost per bit, provides best-in-class spectral efficiency, and demonstrates a step-change in modem performance, all vital for revolutionary multi-terabit high-performance constellations such as mPOWER.

Throughout 2020, Gilat has been working closely with SES to develop the platform for O3b mPOWER with the common goal of bringing to market unparalleled customer experience in all target verticals. In the third quarter this year, the O3b mPower partnership with SES was expanded with a follow-on order for high-speed modems. Gilat's modems will deliver multi-gigabit throughput, targeting high-end services over the constellation.

IFC Hit by Pandemic — Emerging Stronger

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the global aviation market, Gilat has not changed its overall mobility strategy. Gilat expects that upon industry recovery, IFC will be even more important as passengers who, throughout the pandemic, came to rely heavily on an always-connected experience will continue to demand reliable high-speed Internet connections.

Furthermore, Gilat believes that the introduction of widespread, free WIFI will significantly increase take-up rates and provide a strong tailwind to the industry, and Gilat. Gilat is working closely with its customers and partners to enable them to meet the expected increase in bandwidth requirements, and passenger connectivity demands.

In China, Gilat announced this past summer an important milestone as a driver of the opening-up of the Chinese Ka-band for In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity (IFEC) market. The announcement was made with Gilat's partners China Satcom and FTS, a leading Chinese system integrator who received the STC/VSTC for IFEC earlier this year. Gilat’s aero modem, Taurus, is powering IFEC service to China’s Qingdao Airlines. The Qingdao Airlines’ A320 aircraft has started to provide SATCOM based IFEC commercial service, after a very successful flight from Qingdao to Chengdu on July 7, 2020, with its IFEC system formally open to the passengers for the first time. As of this writing, there are more than 3,500 commercial aircraft operating in China and this aircraft is the first one retrofitted with a Ka-band IFEC system.

Outstanding Technological Achievements

On the technology front, Gilat marked in 2020 three major industry milestones: First, Gilat released its flagship Capricorn PLUS VSAT, achieving the remarkable performance of half a Gigabit of concurrent speeds enabling service with maximum efficiency for data-intensive applications such as 5G backhauling, maritime and enterprise. In addition, built-in support for Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) infrastructure enables next-generation edge services, such as video caching and IoT gateways.

The second technological achievement, of carrying 5G traffic with outstanding performance, was demonstrated by Gilat during the third quarter this year. Gilat believes that 400/100 Mbps' recorded results to/from the 5G handset are unique in the industry. The live demonstrations took place with two MNOs over Thaicom’s IPSTAR GEO satellite. Using a 5G handset, a large number of applications including: Browsing, Speedtest, Youtube 4K, VoLTE, ViLTE, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and even communication with a drone providing a live video stream, were tested with excellent results.

The tests were done with several 5G architecture options, including Standalone (SA) and Non-Standalone (NSA), using Gilat’s Capricorn PLUS with an adaptation of Gilat's patented GTP acceleration, at times showing results better than the terrestrial connection. With this successful test, Gilat has declared Gilat's cellular backhaul solution operational and ready for implementation in the 5G architecture.

The third technological milestone was achieved with Gilat’s first-to-flight Electronically Steered Antenna (ESA) terminal providing IFC in test flights over GEO and NGSO constellations. The demonstration showed high performance and instantaneous Ka-band switchovers between and operating on Telesat’s Phase 1 LEO satellite and its Anik-F3 GEO satellite, onboard Honeywell’s Boeing 757 commercial test aircraft, across several flight tests. These three achievements are examples that further validate Gilat’s proven technological superiority and are further testimony to Gilat's industry leadership and innovation.

Concluding 2020 — Light at the End of the Tunnel

The COVID-19 pandemic has had severe consequences on so many aspects of people's lives and continues to take a toll on much more than their physical health. Communication therefore, now is more important than ever as social distancing is required, and travel is prohibitive. Especially these days, Gilat is proud to lead the industry in delivering broadband connectivity over satellite to ensure that critical communication is available to all.

Gilat is cautiously optimistic that 2021 will bring a global economic recovery and expect that Gilat will continue to lead in the IFC, CBH, Broadband and VHTS/NGSO market segments, powered by its outstanding technology.

Author Doreet Oren is the Director of Product Marketing and Corporate Communications for Gilat Satellite Networks. She has been in this role since 2012 and has been responsible for defining product positioning, messaging, go-to-market strategies, market research, and analyst relations. Doreet has more than 20 years of industry experience, and has held management positions in R&D, product management and product marketing, for international high-tech companies. In this capacity she contributed to next generation product definition and was responsible for delivering the company’s vision to the media and analyst community. Oren has published thought leadership articles in renowned international journals, and has spoken at numerous industry conferences worldwide. She received a BSc in Computer Science from George Washington University.