From Entrepreneur to Satellite Operator: Q&A with Carol Craig, CEO of Sidus Space

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TAMPA, Fla – Sidus Space went public in December to help transform government contractor Space Coast into a commercial satellite constellation operator.

The company raised $ 15 million by listing its shares on December 14 on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange under the SIDU symbol, without merger of an ad hoc company (SPAC) which other space companies recently used to go public.

The shares were priced at $ 5 each on the Nasdaq Capital Market, the Nasdaq’s less stringent level aimed at start-ups with relatively small market caps, and closed at $ 12.19 after its first day of trading, before trading. collapsing to around $ 9 as this article goes on. to lean on.

Proceeds from the registration will help Sidus develop an international sales team and purchase 3D printers and other hardware for a network of 100 satellites, which the company says initially aim to provide in-orbit testing services, after securing the spectrum rights for the constellation last February.

The predicted constellation comes after Sidus changed its name last year from Craig Technologies Aerospace Solutions, which was formed as a manufacturing subsidiary ten years ago for Craig Technologies, a technology solutions provider founded in 1999.

Despite its IPO, Sidus remains majority owned by Craig Technologies, whose CEO Carol Craig continues to effectively control Sidus by retaining voting rights.

News interviewed Craig, the first female owner-founder of a space company to go public, to learn more about her plans as Sidus prepares to deploy her first satellite later this year.

Why did you choose to raise funds in the public market, and why did you not pursue a merger with a PSPC to do so?

I funded Craig Technologies and even the start of Sidus Space on my own penny, basically, and frankly I was tired of using my money – I wanted to be able to speed up. It is always the challenge. If you don’t have the money you can’t speed up, and we’ve done some really great things in the last few years and wanted to take advantage of that.

So I decided to look at capital and spoke to several people: venture capital, private equity – all that stuff – and frankly, I was not impressed. I was very frustrated until the option to go public came up. People talk about the difficulties, how long it takes, but it really took us about five months.

As for the hardships, we are a government contractor and in my mind that is the hardest part. You have audits every two months, and you need to make sure your t’s are crossed out and your i’s are dotted and you’re not doing anything wrong. It’s the same concept for me when it comes to being a public company. I have a responsibility towards the shareholders just as I have a responsibility towards the government or the taxpayers.

I spoke with a few PSPCs and people about it. First, the more I read on it, it just didn’t seem like something I wanted to be a part of. I wouldn’t say it’s not legit, but someone described it as entering through the back door – or entering through the side window, rather than entering through the front door. I like transparency. I like the idea of ​​doing this up front, the way most people expect it to be done.

It would also get a little confusing when people looked at the two companies and asked about Craig Technologies, which is actually a separate business model. Merging the two at this point didn’t make sense. The public option allowed me to keep Sidus separate, and also allowed me to cede only a smaller minority share of the company to raise capital. I am not saying that I will always have the majority. That’s not my intention at all, we’re going to want to do some additional increases and we have that option now.

Do you see other government space contractors already accustomed to rigorous audits becoming public companies?

I do not think so. If I hadn’t had Sidus and the business side of things, I don’t think I would have. But I think you might see more commerce-driven space companies, and maybe a little bit the government, going down that path. It’s still not for the faint of heart, just like government procurement, but I’d be surprised to see smaller government contractors go down this route.

Sidus describes itself as a space-as-a-service company, but so far its only significant income has come from contract work, mostly for NASA and the International Space Station. What prompted you to go beyond that, and what is the plan for the 100 satellites that have secured the spectrum?

One thing that inspired us to relocate is the fact that we have a satellite deployer orbiting the ISS. We have contracted with NASA for a platform called SSIKLOPS [Space Stations Integrated Kinetic Launcher for Orbital Payload Systems], which allows us to deploy up to a 110 kilogram satellite off the ISS. There is only one other company out there that does this which is Nanoracks and they cannot launch the size that we have right now.

So that pushed us towards the idea of ​​supporting commercial clients, not just government contracts. We also deployed a flight test platform installed outside the ISS that allowed different types of subsystems for satellites to be tested in this microgravity environment – another small element with more vision. commercial.

Just being a small manufacturer isn’t going to be enough for the space, and we’ve figured that out for so long. One of the things we saw was a challenge to get technology flight certification, or space heritage. We are able to do that because we make computer hardware and have been involved in all kinds of different programs for 10 years. So we said there needs to be some sort of in-orbit testing platform, if you will, to test the satellite subsystems, components, and technologies. More than our flight test platform that took place outside the ISS.

This is what really sparked our evolution into a constellation that could help others get their technologies tested, be it software or hardware.

Additionally, you can integrate multiple payloads on our 3D printed satellites as they have a modular design, which means we can integrate our own technologies and equipment to extract the data. Because, if we want to have a constellation of satellites up there to support and test customer technologies, why not collect that data for ourselves? That’s when we moved on to the second vertical we are focusing on, which is data collection and analysis.

Carol Craig, CEO of Sidus Space. Credit: Espace Sidus

Are you planning to launch all of the ISS satellites?

No, we are absolutely exploring other launch options. The ISS is easy. It is convenient. The first pair will be launched from there, but many customers have other requirements, whether it’s a sun-synchronous polar or different tilts and altitudes. Our spectrum allows it all.

There are so many launch options and the cost keeps going down, and that is to our advantage. We also manufacture our own satellites, and with several satellites in production at different stages, we can integrate technologies at different stages of that manufacturing lifecycle. This gives us the flexibility to really customize based on customer needs and to service them much faster.

What is the deadline for mounting your satellites?

We received spectrum approval in February of last year from the ITU and, just like with the FCC, that is seven years. The approval covers between 300 and 650 kilometers, multiple inclinations and different frequencies on the S and X bands for a hundred satellites. If we realize that we have more customers, we can change that.

It was a “build and they will come” kind of thing. I always put the infrastructure in place first, which people think is difficult. When someone wants to deploy a satellite or test the technology, they will often need to obtain an experimental spectrum license. In this case, we have everything, we own the constellation, we own the spectrum, so there’s really nothing a client has to do.

What customer commitments do you have for the constellation?

I can only mention a few because we are a public company, but there is one called Mission Helios test technology for NFTs and then NASA. The advantage of being in business for over 20 years for me personally and Sidus for 10 years is that we already have a pipeline of clients.

And what are these for LizzieSat-1, your first satellite due to launch in the fourth quarter of this year?

Yes, we have come forward to launch the ISS at the end of this year. We actually have customers for other satellites – we don’t just do one satellite launch and see what happens. We will have several in production at the same time.

Would you like to add anything?

When I watch the IPO it’s almost like we are also bringing space to Earth for the shareholders. [as making space more accessible for companies], because they can be part of something at that level, at the stock price it is at.

The venture capitalists are the ones who have really been able to invest in the space and even with some of these PSPCs there isn’t a lot of movement because of the valuation but we have brought the space back to Land even from an investment perspective.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity

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