First Woman CEO to Take a Space Company Public Now Sets Eyes on a Unique Business Model

Carol Craig, the Founder CEO of Sidus Space which went public last year, has a vision of lowering the entry barrier to space with her space-as-a-service company

Craig, the Founder CEO of Sidus Space which went public last year, has a vision of lowering the entry barrier to space — be it through the 100-satellite constellation she plans to launch, or her dynamic business model as a turn-key Space-as-a-Service company.

The ‘first woman’ tag seems to stick organically and effortlessly to Carol Craig. Before becoming an “astropreneur”, she was one of the first women eligible to fly combat missions for the US Navy. She was also the first woman aviator in her squadron serving as an active-duty P-3C Orion Naval Flight Officer. So, it wasn’t really a novelty for her when last year she became the first woman Founder CEO to take a space company public.

“It’s crazy. We didn’t even know until halfway through the IPO that there have been only 22 female-founded companies on the Nasdaq. I’m the first female-founded space company to go public. I think it’s pretty cool,” she says.

There was another unique twist there too. She did it without taking the SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) merger route that most other space companies have recently been using to go public. Sidus Space listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange on December 14, 2021, under the symbol SIDU.

Sidus, a Space-as-a-Service company, managed to raise USD 15 million, which will go towards fast expansion – expanding and modernizing existing facilities to support the LizzieSat 100-satellite constellation and grow her workforce to include an international sales team. Despite going public, Craig remains a majority shareholder.

So, what prompted Craig to take the road less travelled?

“A couple things,” she explains.

First, when she was initially talking to SPAC companies, she found that they were looking to take over the entire company. And that wasn’t something she was looking for. “Frankly, we didn’t need that much capital. It just didn’t make sense to me to go the SPAC route,” she adds.

Another thing was that the underwriters that she was working with told her they could take her through a public IPO in four and a half months. So, it was faster. “And I’m glad we did. It was a good decision.”

LizzieSat is Sidus Space’s partially 3D manufactured low earth orbit (LEO) microsatellite that focuses on rapid, cost-effective development and testing of spacecraft technologies and provision of space-based data for multiple customers.

New company, not a newbie

Sidus may be new in the stock market, but much like its founder, it is certainly not a novice in the industry. The company was actually spun out of Craig Technologies and was originally named Craig Technologies Aerospace Solutions.

“I actually have two companies. Craig Technologies is an engineering and technology firm which focuses on government services. Craig Technologies Aerospace Solutions was the spinoff that focused on manufacturing. Over time, we performed more work in the space industry and over the last two years, transitioned to commercial space,” she explains.

Craig’s vison of Sidus Space is as a Space-as-a-Service company. But even before Sidus was officially renamed, “we were already in the business of providing satellite manufacturing, testing, launch, and monitoring. And we have also built space hardware for just about every single program that’s out there. We have been in business for the last 10 years, so we have a lot of space heritage experience”, she says.

The company also already had a platform on the International Space Station to perform microgravity tests, and an on-orbit satellite deployer. “What I did with Craig was more service related. It was focused on people and customer needs on site as well as remote. We supported multiple customers externally but also provided internal engineering support. And we were also manufacturing hardware. But it was because of our involvement in commercial space, especially what we did with NASA and the International Space Station, that we started to look at everything that was going happening in the industry and realized that it was just really a natural transition to pivot as a business. Instead of solely building hardware for other people, we decided to combine that heritage business with building hardware for ourselves and control our own destiny. That was the primary reason I decided to focus on Sidus as a commercial space company,” she says.

Craig invested USD 16 million in seed money from Craig Technologies to build up Sidus. “Knowing where the space industry was going and that we were at this crossroads, I wanted to take advantage of the situation,” she adds.

Its own constellation

But now, in addition to all that, Sidus is also launching its own constellation, LizzieSat and has already received approval from ITU for use of radio frequencies related to launching a hundred satellites over the next several years.

“Our International Telecommunication Union (ITU) filing is approved and published. We submitted through the ITU, as opposed to the FCC, which handles international coordination, notification and recording of the specific radio frequencies transmitted and received by satellites,” she explains.

In the first phase, there will be approximately 15 satellites, and that’s going to be in the range of the next couple years or so with the hundred planned to be launched within five years. Sidus is already negotiating with small satellite rocket launchers to be able to send batches up at a time and expects its plans to accelerate after the next couple years.

“It made sense with what Sidus had been doing related to hardware and products to build our own satellites. My background is engineering, but also software engineering. So, I really looked at satellites as data providers. There are some estimates that have been thrown around that say that there’s going to be 40,000 satellites up there in the next 20 years. I don’t think that’s going to actually happen because I think once infrastructure providers like Sidus, space-as-a-service providers, have our assets up there, we’ll be able to provide the data that people want,” she says.

Craig’s vision of the constellation is unique and quite interesting. The primary thing is not to be niche but instead to be a multi-mission satellite constellation.

“As a space-as-a-service company, there are two verticals for us. One of those is an on-orbit testing platform; essentially integrating others’ payloads. We help our clients through this entire process. We have the spectrum launch, get you that data to prove that your hardware worked. And then the second piece is the data side of it. So, the initial first few satellites are focused on those customer payloads and our own sensors, because ultimately, it’s our constellation — we will manage, operate and handle all of it.

The sensors on the satellites will vary from remote sensing, to SAR, to optical imagery. “And we are also looking at optical-com payloads,” she says.

Space-as-a-service

In December last year, shortly after its listing, Sidus signed a contract with Mission Helios to provide launch and integration services. As a decentralized space community, Helios plans to pioneer a new and innovative space-based blockchain technology that will mint satellite imagery through non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on the Ethereum blockchain.

During the same time, Sidus also entered a contract with NASA to collaborate on its Advanced Space Technology Roadmapping Architecture (ASTRA) project, which involves integration and maiden demonstration of the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) derived autonomous operations in a spaceflight environment. ASTRA will infuse multiple new technologies, including an autonomous imaging system on the Sidus-built LizzieSat satellite which will then be deployed from the ISS using their SSIKLOPS deployer. LizzieSat-1 is scheduled to launch in the later part of this year, and the mission is expected to validate the AES-developed autonomy software through on-orbit testing.

The Space Station Integrated Kinetic Launcher for Orbital Payload System (SSIKLOPS) is a mechanism used to robotically deploy satellites from the International Space Station and is designed to provide a method to transfer internally stowed satellites to the external environment. Sidus Space is responsible for full life-cycle operation, engineering, and manufacturing of SSIKLOPS.

Sidus plans to manufacture all of its satellites in-house. “We are mostly using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) subsystems as a complement to our partially 3D manufactured bus. COTS systems make it more affordable and faster to manufacture a satellite, so it won’t take two or more years to get technology integrated and tested or to retrieve meaningful data,” Craig says.

She is looking at a production cycle of about a year, partially due to the COTS parts but also because of it is a modular design. “If somebody suddenly wants a bigger payload integrated, we can quickly modify the size of LizzieSat to accommodate the increase in size. Our intent is not to have a full-blown customized satellite each time but rather a consistent and standardized satellite that can be rapidly manufactured. But if we needed to modify, we can accommodate quickly because our production line includes the entire process in-house.” she explains.

Craig essentially sees Sidus providing end to end space-as-a-service. “But if a customer comes to me and requests us to build hardware for their products, we will continue to provide that capability. We can help companies with engineering, integration, and anything else they need.”

For instance. Sidus supported Nanoracks on their Bishop Airlock by providing electrical engineering services and wire harness manufacturing.

So, is Sidus looking at manufacturing satellites for others too?

Craig says Sidus could build a customer a satellite, but that isn’t the core model. “Our core focus is to provide our customers with their needs – based around our platform.  We believe there are more efficiencies to be gained out of using our own satellite platform,” she adds.

Sidus is looking to replace the current model which sees each space company, country or customer needing a dedicated satellite of its own. “Unless it’s a classified program, we believe that the satellites can support multiple customers. We have the platform and the infrastructure. So, whatever the customer need is, that’s going to drive our sensors. So again, whether it’s SAR, it might be a hyperspectral camera, it might just be a basic camera or an antenna,” she elaborates.

And because the satellites, with their varied sensors, will be customizable, they can focus on a wide range of vertical industries to serve – be it the space industry, agriculture, finance, or healthcare. “We should be in a position to support every single one of these user segments because we have the ability to integrate any technology into our satellite. Technology is going to continue to change, and the business model is the same no matter who the user is, really. At least, that’s the way I look at it.”

While not being willing to fit into a box and keeping the options wide open could have its own set of challenges in terms of marketing, being an industry insider for over two decades also helps. “Whether it be the US government, international governments, or large companies, we have been working with customers of many types for years. Our foot is already in the door, we have healthy experience, and our customer pipeline already exists.”

A whole new approach

Beyond the existing customers, Craig is also focused on startups who are looking to have their technologies tested and need a platform to accommodate their needs. Additionally, she believes that the desire for data of all types will accelerate over the next 18-24 months and customer adoption related to space-based data will increase exponentially.

In the end, it’s also about lowering the entry barrier to space. “That’s why our tagline is ‘Bringing space down to Earth.’ It is not rocket science. Really, it’s not and shouldn’t be that difficult to ensure that space is open to everybody. Just like the internet is ubiquitous, we want to see the same ubiquity in a few years with satellites, satellite data, and access to space.”

Currently, Sidus has 59 employees, and is looking to expand over the next year. As it ramps up and build more satellites. It plans to have a nationwide presence and is also looking to aggressively address the international market, where Craig actually sees a lot of opportunities.

“I describe our target international market as underrepresented international countries who may not have the budget for significant space programs but see the future needs that can be met by becoming a part of the space ecosystem,” she says.

So what’s the next thing that excites her?

“We’ve got work to do and I’m excited about that. As the first woman CEO to take her space company public, I am often told I should celebrate my successes more. But my feeling is ‘Okay, this is cool, but we’ve got work to do. I do hope that other women see what can be done, especially young women. We will hopefully be in a position in a few years where we can say, “Okay, this is not a men’s-only club anymore.  Building a space company is an option for anyone.”

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Contacts

Investor Relations
Kevin Holmes
Chesapeake Group
kevinholmes@chesapeakegp.com
+1-410-825-3930

Media
Karen Soriano
karen.soriano@sidusspace.com
+1-443-900-2437

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