Imaging satellite builder Maxar signs contract with Umbra to use its radar satellites

Maxar, which operates a constellation of high resolution optical imaging satellites for commercial and military use, has now signed a contract with Umbra, which operates a constellation of high resolution radar satellites for commercial and military use.

The partnership will allow Maxar to directly task Umbra’s satellites and integrate synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data into its portfolio of Earth intelligence products and services, Tony Frazier, head of Maxar’s public sector Earth intelligence, told SpaceNews.

SAR is a specialized form of remote sensing that has been in growing demand since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. SAR satellites can capture images at night, through cloud cover, smoke and rain — conditions that impair traditional optical satellites like those operated by Maxar.

The contract will give Maxar “assured access” to the soon-to-be launched six and seven satellites in Umbra’s constellation.

Essentially, this deal enhances Maxar’s value. Its main customer is the U.S. military, and it can now offer that military a more enhanced observation capability. Umbra meanwhile gets a major customer quickly, rather than having to pitch its product to multiple potential buyers. Its radar product is also enhanced, because it will now come automatically partnered with optical imagery.