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New Impact Paper → How the SAR Market is Primed for Expansion


After compiling some of the most compelling SAR market insights we could find, we thought it would be helpful to share our findings in a free Impact Paper. Throughout, you'll find intriguing EO trends, projections, and more.

In this blog, we've highlighted key excerpts from our paper, providing a 330,000-foot view of the SAR market and revealing projections for what the SAR landscape will look like over the next decade or so. As you'll see, many findings point to how the SAR market is now primed for significant expansion, echoing the rapid growth of optical EO over the past decade.

These projections are made all the more critical by rapidly evolving global challenges. As the world addresses issues related to the environment, logistics, infrastructure, and global security, our combined use of both traditional and innovative geospatial solutions will become all the more crucial.

Let's dig in ↓


Source Note: Report data, in addition to some of the enclosed insights, have been sourced from publicly available research published by PwC, Euroconsult, ESA, Mordor Intelligence, Emergen Research, and other organizations listed throughout the paper.



While the space-based Earth Observation (EO) market is fairly niche — US$2.5B in 2020 (PwC) — it has a immense economic and societal impact. Because it is heavily influenced by government policy, regulation, and spending, there are significant downstream implications across manufacturing, logistics, agriculture, and infrastructure.

"EO satellites allow for data capture at a global scale, revealing evolution over time and analysis and prediction of human impact."

Earth Observation technology reaches every corner of the global economy. EO providers have diversified their customer base beyond the defense market over the past decade, thanks in part to the proliferation of small, economical optical satellites and lowered launch costs. Meanwhile, ongoing improvements in data processing, delivery, and analysis will continue to expand application types.

The EO market has evolved rapidly over the last decade, enabled by NewSpace optical providers and improved launch opportunities. Driven by the energy, defense, environment, and agricultural sectors, the SAR EO market in particular is now primed for significant growth, with NewSpace providers opening up new market opportunities.

Over the last decade, NewSpace optical EO data providers have moved away from traditional large satellites launched in small constellations; instead, operating small-satellite constellations in the hundreds and thousands. The Earth Observation market is rapidly growing with rise in both supply of imagery through NewSpace constellations as well as in demand.

"Science-based decision-making tools will gain importance for companies, regulators, researchers, and policymakers, with increased attention on environmental issues, agricultural practices, and climate patterns."



Barriers to entry in the space industry have been significantly reduced by ground-segment-as-a-service (GSaaS) innovations, lower operating costs, and fewer regulatory hurdles. The result has been improved processing, analysis, and information delivery that attracts non-traditional customers. This is further bolstered by machine learning, artificial intelligence, onboard processing innovations, inter-satellite links, and more.

These innovations help to provide superior change detection for everything from global security to environmental science. Along with Artificial Intelligence, M2M capabilities will continue to improve the utility of massive EO datasets, further expanding EO applications and customer types.


Defense has remained a key driver of the EO market for over 40 years, with geopolitical tensions continuing to push that dynamic. The SAR sector in particular has been heavily impacted and constrained for over 15 years due to growing need and limited supply — which is now being addressed by NewSpace providers.


SAR sensors provide extremely high-res data and wide-area monitoring — regardless of weather, smoke, and tree cover — and accurately determine elevation, surface features, topographic features, moisture levels, etc. Although its utility is undeniable, SAR is currently considered a vastly under-utilized technology, due in part to higher production costs and processing expenses when compared to optical imagery.

Thanks to innovations in satellite technology, launch services, and tangential technologies, the SAR EO market is now expected to see the same progression experienced by the optical market over the past decade.


Demand for commercial SAR has continued to grow after being constricted for more than 15 years — creating lucrative unmet needs. The potential for value-added services (VAS) also remains high and is primed for growth thanks to NewSpace entrants and improved processing stimulated by machine learning, cloud computing, and AI innovation.

The potential also remains high for novel services, which will likely be expanded by NewSpace providers. Traditional missions like Radarsat-1 are largely funded through government programs and are nearing the end of their lifespan. In fact, 90% of the SAR market is currently served by 3 providers, with those leading providers expected to reach the end of their lifespans in 2024.


Defense remains the most important industry for SAR data, along with maritime uses associated with military and security. It is anticipated that most revenue will be derived from X-band sources, which provide the highest resolutions. C-band and L-band data sources are priced lower, and will not be the focus for most NewSpace SAR providers, aside from SpaceAlpha, which will provide L-band data simultaneously with X-band data.


Alpha will balance traditional and NewSpace approaches, serving a constrained market with data that serves current unmet needs, while anticipating future needs related to processing and self-cueing; onboard processing, machine learning, and in-space AI.

To learn more, be sure to grab our new paper.


SpaceAlpha Insights ("Alpha") is a Vancouver-based space company that's developing next-gen Earth Observation satellites for heightened geospatial intelligence. Alpha's SAR-XL satellites will deliver unprecedented global insights for missions related to environmental monitoring, security, logistics, and more.



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