Payam Banazadeh is CEO & Founder of Capella Space, a Silicon Valley company building the largest constellation of commercial Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites in order to provide hourly monitoring services of anywhere in the globe.
Payam holds a business/management degree from Stanford University and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in Aerospace Engineering from The University of Texas. Prior to starting Capella Space Payam was a project manager and flight systems engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and has been awarded NASA Mariner Award, NASA Discovery Award, and NASA Formulation Award.
Most recently Payam was selected to be on the prestigious “Forbes 30 under 30” list in 2017 and Capella has been recognized by New York Times, Bloomberg, and recently Inc magazine as one of the top 25 disruptive companies in the world.
Outside of Capella, Payam spends his time thinking about the impact of technology on society, economy, politics, and human behavior. He is an advocate of raising awareness around the volatility of life on earth and the responsibilities of technologists to think pro-actively about their work and its intended and unintended consequences.
(Published in SpaceNews: "Capella Space unveils first radar satellite images")
“When I started Capella Space in 2016, there were a number of European providers operating and building commercial SAR, but the United States had no horse in the commercial SAR race,” Payam Banazadeh, Capella Space founder and CEO, said in a blog post. “Capella decided to change that dynamic, and challenge the international competition by bringing a fully American designed, built and operated capability to market. Today we accomplished that goal and we can proudly say we are the first American SAR operator.”
“Over the coming weeks and months, we will continue sharing images that showcase some of the higher resolution imagery including our 50-centimeter resolution Spot, more advanced capabilities and the unique advantages of our systems,” Banazadeh wrote. “These advantages will include exceptionally large imaging capacity, the highest resolution available commercially, near real-time collection and delivery latency, and incredible ease of use of our services and customer service.”9 August 2021
(Published in BBC: "Capella delivers super sharp satellite radar pictures")
"You don't have to be a SAR expert to look at this imagery and not only appreciate it but also extract really useful information from it, which is what we were going for from the beginning," CEO and founder Payam Banazadeh told BBC News.
"As we're going over an area, we can continue essentially keeping the focus of the satellite in the same location for up to 60 seconds," Mr Banazadeh explained.
"With that very, very long dwell time, what ends up happening is you get pixel sizes that are in this case much less than 50cm - you end up getting pixels that are in the 5-10cm range. And then when you average all of that, you get a 50cm image, but with very little noise."
The biggest markets are the government markets," the CEO said.
"What they really want to do is zoom into a location. They want to count features and figure out what they are. And so all that matters is can you zoom in enough? That's just purely a resolution-quality game."9 August 2021
(Published in CNBC: "Satellite start-up Capella Space aims to tap $60 billion intelligence market with new imagery")
“A third of that is [space-based] as of today, but what’s happening now is a rapid, really exponential growth in Earth observation and with capabilities like SAR,” Payam Banazadeh said.
“You can have thousands of optical satellites, but you’re only limited to 25% of Earth,” Banazadeh said. “We have access to the entire Earth, all the time.”
The other “big factor” is that the radar-based system “is a coherent active measurement system,” Banazadeh added.
That means the radar signals sent out by the satellites and reflected off the ground have “information hidden” that includes characteristics of what is in the image. The signal then comes back differently “based on the material, the texture, and the moisture,” he said.
“The biggest customer of geospatial imagery in the world is the U.S. government,” Banazadeh said. “That’s where the big opportunity in the short term is and it’s a massive market [with] unmet demand.”
In-Q-Tel, the venture capital firm funded by the CIA, was one of Capella’s early investors. On Thursday, the company announced an expanded partnership with In-Q-Tel, which Banazadeh says will see Capella deliver “services and products through In-Q-Tel” to its customers.
“I sometimes joke that, with some of the Earth observation companies, it’s faster for [a customer] to jump on a plane, pay 4,000 bucks for a business class flight over the place that you want to take a look at, literally take a look from the window, and then come back,” Banazadeh said.
“On average we can get that data down within 20 minutes or so from the time that it actually gets collected,” he said.
Amazon then will “scale with us,” he said, removing the need for Capella to build its own data processing services.
“Our tech has been validated, our market has been validated, our product has been validated, we’re generating revenue from assets that we have in space — and so the next phase of the company is really scaling up and growing,” Banazadeh said.9 August 2021