Colombian satellite company Sequoia finds space for expansion in Latin America

Sequoia Space

Sequoia Space, a Colombian company involved in the manufacturing of small satellites, has found room for expansion in Latin America, and thanks to new related initiatives projects a jump in revenue within two years.

The company was founded by Colombian engineers in 2007.

¨After having worked on an academic project in Colombia for a satellite named Libertad 1, which was launched in 2007, we learned about the process of developing satellites and built an international contact network. We saw that there was an opportunity in the satellite business,¨ said Ivan Luna, company CEO, by telephone. Luna and other engineers quit their jobs at the Colombia-based Sergio Arboleda University that same year to start the company, he said.

¨Initially we had no capital. We started to represent companies abroad that made parts of satellites and marketed them to projects of Latin American universities. They were our first clients and we were selling for a 10 percent commission. With that 10 percent we started to develop our own products,¨ he said.

The company expanded from selling parts made by others to making its own small satellites. Later, the company began to ¨offer complete satellite missions,¨ which consider the coordination for the launching, the technological transfer process and the process of monitoring from land. Now it is also selling processed reports sent by satellites with applications from defense to agriculture.

¨With the business model that we have worked, we project revenue in a one-year period of $2 million and with this new business model we can project $5 million in two years,¨ Luna said.

¨The technology that we developed can be used in other things, like for example electronic cards,¨ he added. Sequoia, which specializes in satellites that weigh up to about 50 pounds, is also working with drones and high altitude balloons that carry instruments.

There are other countries in Latin America that have made advances in space technology, particularly in the case of Brazil, which has reached accords with Russia and has a launching platform. The satellites made by Luna and his team of engineers have so far been launched from the United States and Kazakhstan.

¨The cost for putting in a low orbit (500 km) satellite load is about $80,000 per kilogram,¨ he said, adding that creating launching facilities is an interesting business but requires so much investment it can only be contemplated at a government level.

While there are companies in the aerospace industry in Latin America, the regional authorities in general are still not used to the handling of complex products which is one disadvantage, he said.

¨For example, solar cells cannot be manipulated by hands in customs or go through x-rays so we have to work very closely with them to set procedures,¨ Luna said.

However, being based in Latin America opens more opportunities. ¨If we were, for example, in California, we would have more competition,¨ he added.