Celestia eyes larger stake in ground segment market

Space

WASHINGTON — Dutch conglomerate Celestia Technologies Group hopes to provide more satellite gateway stations following its December acquisition of Antwerp Space’s ground systems division in Belgium. 

Celestia, now 250 people eight seven countries, generated 30 million euros ($33.3 million) in 2019 revenue, with Airbus, Thales Alenia Space and the European Space Agency as its top customers, José Alonso, Celestia Group’s chairman, said in an interview. 

Celestia consists of 12 small- to medium-sized businesses across France, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the U.K., Ireland and now Belgium.

Celestia bought Antwerp Space’s ground systems division from OHB, Europe’s third largest space company. Alonso said Celestia now has the means to build all elements of a satellite gateway ground station instead of just select parts. 

“We were trying to buy companies which were able to provide parts or elements of ground stations — on the most innovative parts — so we were able to fit all the elements that were required in the ground segment,” he said. “Today we are able to do everything within a ground station.”

Celestia’s focus is on gateway stations for spacecraft operations such as telemetry, tracking and control, often seen at satellite teleports and command centers. Today the company supplies parabolic dish antennas, but Alonso said it is also developing a flat, electronically-steered antenna it hopes to have ready in 2023. 

The European Space Agency awarded Celestia Group an 8-million euro contract to develop an electronically steered gateway station that can track and communicate with multiple satellites simultaneously. Dish antennas can only follow one satellite at a time, which while fine for geostationary satellites, is less practical for large constellations in other orbits. 

Alonso said that while electronically steered antennas are more expensive than dish antennas, a single electronically steered antenna should be able to replace several dish antennas, making them more cost-effective. 

The recently acquired ground systems division of Antwerp Space also provides communications equipment for launch vehicle ground systems, and will further Celestia’s investment into software-defined modems, he said. The acquisition added 17 people to Celestia’s headcount, and is expected to provide 4 million euros in additional annual revenue. 

Celestia has been steadily buying companies, having purchased French amplifier company Callisto in 2018, and Dutch company SSBV (renamed C-STS), which tests satellite communications systems, in 2016. The company plans to make additional acquisitions in the coming years to grow its revenue, he said. 

Alonso said the Antwerp Space purchase was “fully in line with the current Celestia strategy, based on acquisitions of small space companies that bring into Celestia promising innovation assets to foster future growth.”

Celestia is targeting 40 million euros in revenue for 2020, he said. The company had previously set the goal of 50 million euros and growing to 500 people, but Alonso said limits in funds kept those goals out of reach. Celestia since realized it has been able to grow revenues with fewer people thanks to the higher margins associated with complete products instead of just components, he said. 

By 2030, the company’s goal is to grow to 1,000 people and pull in 100 million euros in annual revenue, Alonso said. The company plans to use revenue and debt to fund additional acquisitions to reach that size, he said. 

Alonso said future acquisitions will likely be in the countries where Celestia is already present. Celestia also wants to expand in the U.S., a process Alonso said will likely rely on Next Phase Measurements, a Torrance, California-based antenna testing company in which Celestia is a minority shareholder. 

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