Speaker Interview: Steve Young, Vice President, ICEYE

Ahead of Space Tech Expo Europe this November, we caught up with Steve Young, vice president at ICEYE.

Graduating in 1995 in applied physics with honours and postgraduate qualifications in business steve youngmanagement, Steve joined British Aerospace as a flight test engineer before moving into business development as the company transitioned to BAE Systems in 2000. Steve became the corporate director for Europe within group business development before moving to Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) in 2008 as the head of business development and sales. Leaving in 2015 to co-found a new space company called Earth-i, Steve helped Earth-i get going before accepting a role as campaign director and chief of staff with BAE Systems. In February 2019, Steve took up the role of vice president of business development and sales for ICEYE, a New Space company focusing on delivering radar satellite capability and services to customers around the world. In the role, Steve has global responsibility for all of ICEYE's new business and revenue opportunities. Running a team with focus on data, value-added services and missions, Steve is enjoying having a value proposition that encompasses the entire value chain, from an organisation that is delivering real substance with an operational satellite constellation and ground systems to match.


You will participate in the 'Advancing Imaging Technologies: from Lidar to SAR to Hyperspectral and Everything in Between' panel at the Smallsats Conference on Wednesday, November 20. How do you see the smallsat market developing now and what do you think are its biggest challenges and opportunities? 

The smallsat market has been growing for several years and shows no sign of slowing anytime soon. Advances in the use of COTS technologies, simplification of systems and architectures, miniaturisation and the falling costs of launch are all bringing down the total costs of achieving on-orbit capability. This, in turn, is enabling more and more focus on the use of the data and services delivered and enabled by these assets, which is where the ultimate value comes from. As this value is realised and the demand for such services increases, there is a corresponding increase in the need and demand for on-orbit assets to service these applications. 

There will always be technology challenges on the hardware and software side for spacecraft. However, the most immediate and significant challenges would seem to be on utilising the immense amount of data collected and focusing applications that use this data on areas that deliver added value for people. Whatever the application served by smallsats is, it has to deliver something of benefit to people. Putting the systems, processes and ground-based infrastructure in place that service these applications is just as challenging as the space-based assets!


ICEYE specialises in offering imaging services based on synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology. This tech has been around for some time but only recently has been adopted in small satellites. What is the advantage of this technology over, for example, optical or hyperspectral imaging?

SAR is a complementary system to optical and hyperspectral. All these capabilities have their own strengths and are good at different applications. SAR, for example, can capture useable data at any time of day or night and isn’t affected by cloud cover. As such, there are some applications that are better serviced using SAR. ICEYE has pioneered a way to bring SAR capability to satellites. 


In terms of industry news, what development, announcement or otherwise has stood out most to you in the past year and why?

ICEYE! One of the reasons I joined ICEYE was because of the fact that the company is actually delivering the capability that has only ever been talked about. Revisit times, measured in single digit hours, of anywhere on the globe, no matter what the weather, or the time of day or night, is something that enables an entire new set of applications. For many years, the industry discussion has been about ‘if only we could get regular, reliable and repeatable coverage’. With ICEYE, you can. Finally having the capability that has, until now, only ever been just talked about, was an opportunity I couldn’t miss!


If you could have one historical figure over to dinner, who would it be and why?

Sir Isaac Newton. I’m a physicist by background so I’d want to know what sort of man he was and why I had to spend years trying to remember his equations!


We’re looking forward to seeing you at the Smallsats Conference at Space Tech Expo Europe. Can you tell us what you’re most looking forward to at the show?

Catching up with industry colleagues and seeing the latest developments across the industry.

Join Steve at the panel 'Advancing Imaging Technologies: from Lidar to SAR to Hyperspectral and Everything in Between' at the Smallsats Conference on Wednesday 20 November at 10:15am.