There was a definite change of tone at SatComRus 2016 where the Internet of Things (IoT) and how it could impact the Russian space market was the main theme, writes Mark Holmes in an article published in Via Satellite magazine. In a departure from previous events, which really focused on the state of the market as well as Russian Federal Programs, the main theme underpinning this year’s event was undoubtedly the industrial internet in Russia and how it could help the Russian space industry.

Alexei Belyakov, head of the Skolkovo Foundation's space and telecoms technologies cluster. Photo:

After the event, Via Satellite caught up with Alexei Belyakov, vice president and executive director for the space and telecommunications technologies cluster at Skolkovo Foundation, to talk about the “NewSpace” environment in Russia. The Skolkovo Foundation plays a key role in new technology development and how these technologies can be commercialized in Russia and beyond. He told Via Satellite that IoT could definitely be one growth point for the Russian satellite industry.

“Given the number of remote locations (oil deposits, mines, pipelines, etc.) satellite IoT has very strong fundamentals here in such verticals as energy, oil and gas, agriculture, and transportation. Moreover, there are some underutilized constellations (Gonetz, for example) that might be very valuable in this segment,” he says.

However, in terms of new start ups focusing on the space industry in Russia, Belyakov admits he can’t say there are a lot. “At the end of the day start-up ecosystem strongly depends on many factors: capital availability, macroeconomics, entrepreneurial culture, etc.; not all these factors are ‘in best shape’ in Russia at the moment. However, at Skolkovo we managed to ‘assemble’ some interesting success stories,” he adds.

He talks of Dauria Aerospace, a privately funded company, and points to the fact that it has designed and launched three satellites, two of which have been sold to Aquila Space. Another company Belyakov highlights with Russian heritage is Astro Digital, which has created a platform and Application Program Interface (API) for working with images acquired from different constellations. This platform is used for creating services used in sectors such as agriculture and insurance to assess the level of damage, for example.

Belyakov believes there is now a heightened interest toward the sector from strategic investors in Russia. He says this interest primarily comes from telecom operators that see a threat coming from new generation of companies such as O3b Networks and OneWeb. “Our telecoms players are much more cautious and I do not believe they will rush to make multimillion investments like Google [and] Facebook did. Sometimes it is better to wait and see. Everyone remembers case of Teledesic,” he says.

However, while companies like Dauria and Astro Digital point to a brighter future, Belyakov says Russian space start-ups cannot really look to solely focus on Russia to be successful; they need to think globally. “There are examples of our startups raising money from international investors — I2BF Global ventures, Columbus Nova, and some others,” he says. This trend will need to continue for Russian companies to find success on the international stage.

Read the full article published in Via Satellite here.