Hyperspectral startup Wyvern signs on to fly with Loft Orbital next year

Hyperspectral imagery startup Wyvern has booked space on a Loft Orbital satellite bus that will launch next year, a move that the company says will boost the capacity of its Dragonette satellite constellation.

Wyvern, which graduated from Y Combinator’s Winter 2022 cohort, has two payloads operating in space, satellites it leases directly from AAC Clyde Space. (Wyvern is the only payload onboard.) But launching and operating a dedicated constellation -- which is the path many other Earth observation startups have taken -- is clearly not the only option on the table.

“We decided early on in Wyvern’s history that if we could avoid building our own satellites, we would,” Wyvern CEO Christopher Robson told TechCrunch. “It’s capital efficient, and we leverage the capability and learning of industry partners. This also allows Wyvern to focus on delivering high-quality, high-resolution hyperspectral data while developing game-changing optical payloads.”

Per the terms of the deal, Wyvern will fly with Loft’s satellite platform, which includes the Longbow bus built by Airbus OneWeb Satellites, and a turnkey payload interface called the Hub. On its website, Loft refers to the Hub as the spacecraft’s “brain – controlling payloads and managing dataflow and resources between onboard payloads and the satellite bus.”

Wyvern will also take advantage of Loft’s satellite operations software, Cockpit, for the duration of the mission.

Loft, which bills itself as a “space infrastructure as a service” company, bulk buys satellite buses and flies them as a standardized platform. Earlier this year, the company ordered an additional 15 satellite buses from Airbus OneWeb in response to growing demand, after buying more than 15 of the same buses in January 2022.

The story has been updated to clarify the payloads Wyvern currently operates in space.