An Earth-imaging satellite that generated $85m in revenue last year for Maxar Technologies' Digital Globe business went TITSUP: a total inability to snap usual photographs.
On Monday, the orbiting bird's owners announced that their WorldView-4 satellite had suffered a gyroscope failure.
The “control moment” gyros are needed to point the satellite accurately aren't working and, while the US biz said it's working with its suppliers to try to restore them, “Maxar believes that WorldView-4 will likely not be recoverable and will no longer produce usable imagery.”
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The gyro failure, the announcement said, meant that the satellite lost one axis of stability. Lockheed-Martin build the satellite, and Honeywell provided the gyros and the latter firm may yet have some ideas to fix the issue.
While the satellite is insured for $183m, there is an expected $155m write-off if the satellite is not recoverable, and Maxar's share price took a hit. At Tuesday's close, it stood at $6.03, down more than 24 per cent since the company admitted it had a problem.
Other satellites will be able to cover some of the WorldView-4 commitments, Maxar said: “The company currently believes it will be able to offset $10 to 15m of the annual revenue from WorldView-4 and will work to minimise the potential impact on Maxar's financial results in future years.”
The satellite offered better than five meters accuracy and 30cm resolution, and was able to add 600,000 square kilometres of imagery to its library each day. It was originally ordered by a company called GeoEye, which Digital Globe acquired in 2013.
Last October, Maxar reported third-quarter revenue of $508m, with $231m coming from Digital Globe, but the company turned in a total loss for the quarter of $432.5m. ®