Umbra a Next Generation Space Company Prepares for Launch of SAR Microsatellite

Described as “nearly four years of secretive research and development,” Umbra, located in downtown Santa Barbara, is preparing to launch its first Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) microsatellite.

Umbra states that they have developed the world’s only microsatellites capable of generating high resolution imagery from space. Umbra can build a scalable constellation which supports high revisit rates. Average hourly revisits are achievable with 12 satellites while maintaining 1 meter resolution (NESZ ≤ -18 dB). 

Founders of Umbra, David Langan (CEO) and Gabe Dominocielo (CSO), long-time friends born and raised in Santa Barbara, wanted to start a space company there. Dominocielo said that Santa Barbara is well known as a tourist destination, few realize that is has a century long legacy of aerospace industry. They are proud to be a part of it and participate in the development of its next stage. 

Umbra’s microsatellite weighs about 50 kg (110 lbs) and is launched into space in a rideshare volume of a rocket such as SpaceX’s Falcon 9, reducing the costs of the mission. Once in space, Umbra’s antenna expands into a parabolic dish larger than the side of a small school bus, allowing Umbra to achieve unparalleled performance.

The company’s 10,000 square foot facility recently welcomed local public officials including Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo, City Council members Jason Dominguez and Kristen Sneddon. Wendy Motta, representing Congressman Salud Carbajal, a member of the U.S. House Committee on Armed Services were in attendance. 

Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo said that Umbra’s microsatellite offers an incredible capability [.25 meter single look imagery] which is unlike anything else she has seen before. 

During the tour of Umbra’s Mission Operations Control (MOC), Councilmember Kristen Sneddon, a geophysicist with an expertise in radar technology, noted, they are building a SAR satellite, it is very exciting to have this technology [high-resolution SAR] developed and directed locally within the city. SAR data can be very useful in the Santa Barbara area, specifically to monitor shifting topography, fires, water aquifers, oil leaks/spills and overall environmental monitoring and more.

The location of the company in Santa Barbara joins part of an aerospace legacy such as Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company was founded in 1912, by Allan Lockheed who later formed Lockheed Aircraft Company, one of the companies that formed today’s Lockheed Martin. Jack Northrop began as a draftsman for Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company and later founded what became Northrop Grumman. Other innovative aerospace companies have established offices in Santa Barbara County, including, Astro Aerospace, AEC-Able, DSS and Raytheon.

Umbra currently employs about 20 people and has raised capital from CrossCut Ventures, Hemisphere Ventures, Starbridge Ventures, PonValley and Champion Hill Ventures. 

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