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Scepter Inc. unveils plan for global atmospheric monitoring constellation

Scepter Inc., a Silicon Valley startup, unveiled plans March 22 to launch a constellation of satellites to provide global atmospheric monitoring services for government and commercial customers.

Philip Father, Scepter chief executive, and former DigitalGlobe executive Rafay Khan, discuss plans for a global constellation of atmsopheric-monitoring satellites at Space Systems Loral, a Maxar Technologies company. Credit: SSL

Scepter, which has been in stealth mode for approximately two years, is beginning to reveal plans and solicit investment after receiving a U.S. government patent in mid-March to use space-based sensors to obtain detailed information on various gases in vertical columns of air, combine the information with other data sources, analyze it and present it to customers in visual formats.

“The patent spans a large vision,” said Peter Rosti, Scepter technology chief and primary author of the patent, said March 22 during a forum on atmospheric monitoring at Space Systems Loral, a Maxar Technologies company.

“With our patent behind us we are looking to go to market to raise our next round of capital,” said Philip Father, Scepter chief executive.

Scepter plans to raise $15 million in Series A funding and build its business incrementally, beginning by fusing existing data sources to provide services to customers and eventually establishing a constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit capable of offering hourly updates on air pollution in vertical air columns globally.

“Scepter data can add value in 20 different markets,” said Daniel Hall, Scepter’s business, marketing and product development leader. The markets include government air quality agencies and companies focused on agriculture, energy, insurance, health care and cosmetics, Hall said.

Scepter’s anchor customer is a government agency, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which monitors pollution in nine counties around San Francisco Bay.

“We are in the process of signing a memorandum of understanding,” said Eric Stevenson, Bay Area Air Quality Management District director of meteorology, measurement and rules. “If Scepter brings this to market, we will pay for it.”

Scepter has not hired SSL to build its spacecraft, which are likely to be roughly the size of the satellites SSL built for Planet’s SkySat Earth observation constellation, but the companies are talking, said Matteo Genna, SSL’s chief technology officer.

In addition, Scepter is meetings with people at two other Maxar companies, MDA about building ground systems and Radiant Solutions concerning data processing and data fusion, said Father, former chief executive of ProtoStar Ltd., a geostationary satellite operator.

Scepter plans to monitor air pollution with a suite of space-qualified sensors like ones produced by Headwall Photonics of Bolton, Massachusetts, Father said. With the sensors, Scepter will provide air pollution monitoring precise enough to reveal conditions for individual city blocks, Hall said.

The intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) would like to include that type of detailed information in its public catalog of remote sensing data or at least let people know the data is available, said William Sonntag, global environmental informatics specialist for the GEO Secretariat. “GEO is working to improve its engagement with the commercial sector,” Sonntag added.