NanoAvionicsthe highly touted small Lithuanian start-up, is about to be acquired by Kongsberg Defense & Aeronautics (Kongsberg) in a deal announced earlier this month. The acquisition could allow NanoAvionics to be even more of a factor on the world stage. NanoAvionics has over 150 employees and has contributed to 120 commercial satellite missions and projects, with customers ranging from national space agencies to universities such as UNSW Sydney and companies such as Thales Alenia Space, Glimpse of the aurora, SEN and the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority. In this interview, Linas Sargautis, Chief Commercial Officer and Co-Founder of NanoAvionics, explains why it was the right time for NanoAvionics to be part of something bigger.
BY SATELLITE: Why was it the right time to buy NanoAvionics? What was the purpose of the agreement?
Sargautis: Our industry is maturing, and naturally, it is beginning to consolidate. Our customers, after proving their technologies through demonstration missions, are moving towards the deployment phase of their constellations, which requires us to have a higher production and operating capacity. So from a strategic perspective, it’s been clear to us for some time that a merger with a major industry leader should be the next step in our growth plan. And the timing of the acquisition was very convenient. We are at a point where we have developed a wide range of small satellite products, experience and a proven track record in executing complex end-to-end satellite missions. It coincided that while we were looking for partnerships to help us grow significantly, Kongsberg was looking to develop small satellite capabilities.
BY SATELLITE: How excited are you to be part of a bigger entity? What can Kongsberg do that NanoAvionics couldn’t do on its own?
Sargautis: We are extremely excited. Kongsberg is a powerful player in the space industry with several decades of experience and strong positions in defense and maritime affairs. Many synergies between us ensure our operational capacity and the growth of our business. For example, the KSAT network is opening up new possibilities for our customer constellation operations, and more doors are opening for our small satellite technologies to enter new markets.
BY SATELLITE: How do you see the growth potential of the small satellite market? What do you see as an opportunity for the combined entity?
Sargautis: The market for small satellites is growing rapidly and is gaining in maturity. We have seen the demand increase year on year. And we are now in the market phase, where the constellations are starting to be deployed by our commercial customers. Additionally, we are seeing global interest in small satellite constellations from government institutions that view small satellites as a reliable tool to support critical activities such as communications and remote sensing. It picked up in the US, but it’s now a big trend in Europe and other parts of the world. With Kongsberg, its payload portfolio and KSAT ground station network, we can further expand and make our end-to-end service offering more attractive to our customers.
BY SATELLITE: In terms of smaller satellites, where do you see the most opportunities (region/vertical) where the combined company can make a difference?
Sargautis: In terms of verticality, our combined efforts will strengthen our presence in the global government sector. Here, Kongsberg is a very strong maritime, defense and space contractor, where interest in small satellites has grown significantly. Of course, we will continue to serve the new space industry, which is moving to larger satellites and their constellations, for which mass production is necessary.
BY SATELLITE: It brings together two very different companies, two different cultures. How do you plan to integrate the two companies?
Sargautis: Cultural fit is very important to this partnership, and we are pleased that, despite the difference in size and maturity of the two organizations, we share similar attitudes, values and goals for the future.
BY SATELLITE: Was selling the business still part of your overall plan?
Sargautis: We identified the need to expand our operational capability and advance our business growth a long time ago, so joining forces with a large bounty has been our focus ever since.
BY SATELLITE: Finally, what is the next step for NanoAvionics in terms of developing new products and technologies?
Sargautis: Integrating our capabilities with Kongsberg is our next step. But in the meantime, we are expanding our microsatellite offering with new announcements underway in the coming weeks. We are also increasing our production capacity and have just moved into our new MAIT satellite facilities in Lithuania. Here, with over 2000 square meters, we can triple our current production rate. All of our global facilities are also preparing to ramp up production. For this, our team is also growing rapidly – we currently have over 160 employees in the US, UK and EU, with plans to have 300 employees by the end of 2023.