UrtheCast Corp., a Vancouver company that is about to start beaming high definition video images of the earth taken from a camera on the International Space Station, has signed a deal to buy two satellites.
The company said Monday it is paying about $100-million for a Spanish company, DOT-Deimos, which owns two functioning satellites that send images from space. DOT-Deimos also has a huge archive of existing images.
TSX-listed UrtheCast is buying the firm from Spanish engineering and infrastructure giant Elecnor SA.
Last week, UrtheCast announced that it will soon switch on a continuous feed of video from a camera that cosmonauts have installed on the Russian portion of the space station. The company also said it plans to launch 16 new satellites of its own by 2020.
Acquiring the Deimos-1 and Deimos-2 satellites will accelerate the plans to establish a constellation of satellites providing a variety of kinds of data, said UrtheCast president Wade Larson. "This changes [our company's] size and profile," he said. "It jump-starts our own satellite play."
Essentially, the acquisition means the company will have four "sensors" in space: The video camera on the space station, a still camera alongside it and the two Deimos satellites. Because all generate different kinds of information at different levels of resolution, a wide range of customers will be interested in buying the data, Mr. Larson said. Some of the images will be made available to the public for free on the company's website.
Some clients will not necessarily want the raw images, Mr. Larson said, but will purchase data derived from them, such as traffic patterns in a particular area. Others may use the information for complex "big data" analytics.
Of the two satellites it is purchasing, Deimos-1 takes very wide photographs – a 650 kilometre swath – that could be useful for agriculture or forest monitoring. Deimos-2 has a swath of 12 kilometres and much finer resolution. Deimos-1 was launched in 2009 and Deimos-2 was launched in 2014.
UrtheCast is paying €74-million (just over $100-million) for DOT-Deimos. It plans to raise about $50-million (Canadian) through an equity offering, and another $50 from a term loan. The transaction is set to close in August.
UrtheCast went public in 2013, and its shares traded between $1 and $3 until about a month ago, when they began a sharp climb to well over $4.
The company lost $5.8-million on sales of about $4-million in 2014, but it generated a small profit in the first quarter of 2015.