The Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI) on March 7 will induct four new members into the prestigious Satellite Hall of Fame—they will join the leaders who created, sustained and expanded the industry over the past 60 years, including Dr. Arthur C. Clarke, Dr. Harold Rosen, Rene Anselmo, Takuya Yoshida, David Thompson, Eddy Hartenstein, Romain Bausch, Pradman Kaul, Sidney Topol, John Celli, Giuliano Berretta, Mark Dankberg, Peter Jackson and Jean-Yves Le Gall.
The 2017 honorees are Dr. Walter Scott, Founder and CTO of DigitalGlobe; Mary Cotton, CEO of VT iDirect; James Monroe III, Chairman and CEO of Globalstar; and Thomas Choi, Co-Founder and CEO of Asia Broadcast Satellite.
“The 2017 inductees uphold the proud tradition of the Satellite Hall of Fame,” said SSPI executive director Robert Bell. “Their business achievements are remarkable in themselves, whether in creating a new sector of the industry or vastly expanding businesses through vision and innovation. Their careers offer lessons to an industry poised on the edge of revolutionary changes. Their work also dramatizes the immense contributions of satellite technology to human welfare, economic growth, better government, greater security and deeper understanding of our world.”
The latest members of the Satellite Hall of Fame will be inducted during a ceremony that is the high point of the 2017 Hall of Fame Benefit Dinner on March 7, the opening night of the SATELLITE 2017 convention and exhibition at the Washington Convention Center in Washington DC. They were selected by SSPI’s Board of Directors under the leadership of Chairman Bryan McGuirk, Chief Commercial Officer of Globecomm, and President Dawn Harms, Vice President of Business Development for Boeing Satellite Systems International.
The SSPI Satellite Hall of Fame was introduced in 1987 to recognize the enormous contributions of the visionaries and pioneers who have made possible the age of satellite communications - individuals who have devoted their careers to the advancement of technology and to helping build the political and commercial foundations of the industry.
The 2017 Satellite Hall of Fame Inductees:
Dr. Walter Scott—Founder and CTO, DigitalGlobe
Walter Scott was driving home from a paintball game nearly 40 years ago, according to an article in SpaceNews, when he came up with an idea—one that would help give rise to the US commercial remote sensing industry and change how people see the world.
At the time, he worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on space-related projects such as the Brilliant Pebbles missile defense program. When the US Congress passed the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act in 1992 – which legalized commercial satellite imaging – Dr. Scott founded WorldView Imaging Corporation. The company won the first government license to collect and sell imagery at a resolution of 3 meters across, then unprecedented outside military and intelligence applications.
The early years of the company were filled with challenge, starting with the need to raise money for something no company had done before. WorldView, as well its new competitors that entered the market, were also plagued by an early string of launch and satellite failures. With a patient group of investors and Dr. Scott’s laser-like focus and sense of purpose – he describes it as “boundless enthusiasm and a lack of common sense” – the company finally launched its first successful satellite, QuickBird, in 2001. By 2009, the company went public as DigitalGlobe and launched a second satellite with multispectral capabilities. Four years later, it combined with competitor GeoEye, and over the next few years, launched WorldView-3, which offered higher resolution and shortwave infrared sensing, followed by WorldView-4, which doubled the company’s capacity to collect images at a remarkable 30cm resolution.
By the end of its 2015 fiscal year, DigitalGlobe had a record $702 million in revenues after five years of 20% revenue growth. But its financial success pales in comparison to its impact on business, the economy, security, human welfare and our daily lives. Commercial satellite imaging contributes to agriculture, property development and urban planning, energy and mining, government, border protection and national security, disaster response and recovery – the list is almost endless. Most of us carry it in our pocket in the form of Google Maps. By giving planet Earth a mirror in which to see itself, Dr. Scott has changed the lives of billions for the better.
Mary Cotton—CEO, VT iDirect
September 2017 marks Mary Cotton’s 10th anniversary as CEO of iDirect. Mary has led the company through a decade of tremendous growth, guiding the development of new satellite technologies and steering iDirect toward a leading position in key vertical markets around the world.
The company has a remarkable 57 percent share of the VSAT hub market and has grown to become the leading enterprise TDMA supplier. Eight of the top ten maritime service providers and the top three names in in-flight broadband have made iDirect their platform of choice. During Mary’s tenure, iDirect Government, a wholly owned subsidiary of iDirect, grew its presence to become the leading player in the defense and intelligence communities. Early on, she told Satellite TODAY that “satellite communications is an unsung part of many networking solutions and the industry tends to think of itself as being marginalized. I look at satellite connectivity as … something that drives business for our partners and customers.” That focus on customer value, innovation, and her ability to “see around corners” has translated into substantial success. The company was first to combine TDMA and SCPC technology on one platform, dramatically reducing costs and increasing flexibility. iDirect Evolution®, a broadband network platform introduced in 2008, was powering over 1,600 networks with more than 350,000 remote terminals by 2016.
Perhaps the greatest testimony to the company’s innovative spirit came with the advent of HTS technology. Under Ms. Cotton’s leadership, iDirect won a major contract to develop Inmarsat’s Global Xpress ground network infrastructure. Through this partnership and others with leading satellite operators, Mary further secured iDirect’s name as an integral player in satellite. iDirect Velocity® and iDirect Pulse®, focused on unleashing new HTS capacity, were game-changing technologies. Today that innovative drive grows even stronger with transformational iDirect DVB-S2X technology designed to set a new standard for ground infrastructure performance, removing every barrier to growth for partners and customers.
Beyond revenue and market share, however, is the human impact of iDirect’s success. The company’s technology supports communication with ships that carry the world’s trade, and with energy exploration and production that power its economy. Its cellular backhaul technologies connect the unconnected, while portable VSAT terminals coordinate disaster relief and emergency response. Millions of schoolchildren around the world connect to the Internet and access distance education through iDirect VSAT networks. By driving the growth of her business in service to customers, Ms. Cotton has contributed directly to the world’s prosperity, understanding and security.
James Monroe III—Chairman and CEO, Globalstar
Jay Monroe has built companies worth billions of dollars by relying on a sharp eye for changes in technology, changes in regulation and new business or consumer trends. In the process, he has transformed a bankrupt satellite service provider into an international brand-name company that has saved literally thousands of lives and brought hope to thousands more.
Mr. Monroe was selling equipment for Stewart & Stevenson, a supplier to the oil and gas industry, when he founded the Thermo Companies in 1984 with US$40,000 he and his wife made from selling their home. He saw an opening to develop cogeneration plants under a new energy deregulation law, but his employer did not want to own power plants; it wanted to sell equipment to them. It helped Monroe win US$60 million in financing to build a 76-megawatt plant in Colorado. It was the first of four plants and the Thermo Companies went on to found or acquire companies in natural resource development, industrial equipment distribution, real estate, telecommunications and financial services.
In 2004, Mr. Monroe seized the opportunity to buy a satellite phone company called Globalstar out of bankruptcy, believing it could be turned around by simplifying and reducing prices to attract more customers. After Globalstar restructured the billing model for monthly subscriptions, sales rose 124 percent to $137 million within three years. Mr. Monroe both invested and raised more than a billion dollars allowing Globalstar to successfully launch the company’s second-generation satellites, offering the fastest mobile data speeds in the industry.
During that time, Mr. Monroe saw a need in the market for an affordable handheld satellite tracking and messaging device, leading to the development of the first generation SPOT Messenger. SPOT, now on its 5th iteration, gives users the ability to share their location data and short messages, to track vehicles and other mobile assets, and to hit an SOS button to call for help. To date, it has documented nearly 5,000 rescues on land and sea. A satellite Wi-Fi hub called Sat-Fi followed, which has become vital to field operations for businesses, the newest version of which also includes an SOS button embellishing the company’s core life-saving message. The company’s satellite phone technology is a staple of disaster relief operations as well as being incorporated into communication and tracking systems for aircraft and vessels around the world. With an entrepreneur’s sharp eye for value, Mr. Monroe and SPOT have helped save lives and make the world a safer, more prosperous place.
Thomas Choi—Co-Founder and CEO, Asia Broadcast Satellite
Thomas Choi is a successful serial entrepreneur whose innovations have greatly expanded the contribution of satellite to the economies, societies and people of the developing world. He entered the satellite industry through an executive position with Hughes that made him responsible for all business development in Asia-Pacific. In 1999, he left Hughes to found SpeedCast, a ground-based satellite service provider, in a joint venture with AsiaSat. SpeedCast focused on providing satellite-based voice and data networks to support such critical industries as maritime, energy and finance, while delivering connectivity crucial to education, government operations and disaster recovery.
In 2005, Mr. Choi left SpeedCast to help found another company, ABS Global. He seized the opportunity created by the sale of the Lockheed Martin Intersputnik-1 satellite to do something highly unusual in the satellite business: launch a business with a working satellite on orbit.
The success of ABS-1, previously LMI-1, made it possible to commission ABS-2, one of the biggest satellites ever launched at the time, for which the company won crucial financial support from the Export-Import Bank of the United States. It was launched in 2014 with most of its capacity already committed. With 89 transponders, the satellite brought a significant increase in capacity over the Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacific and CIS/Russia to support television distribution and satellite newsgathering, cellular backhaul, broadband trunking and maritime connectivity. Other satellites followed, either acquired from other operators or ordered by ABS. ABS-3A and ABS-2A satellites were launched in 2015 and 2016 respectively extending the coverage to include the Americas. These additional satellites completed ABS’ three satellite build investment of approximately US$700M and have ushered in the era of highly capital efficient all-electric satellites. Today the company operates a 7-satellite fleet serving 93% of the world’s population, and was recently awarded a telecommunications license in Papua New Guinea. By expanding the reach of satellite both in the sky and on the ground, Mr. Choi has enjoyed entrepreneurial success while helping to raise standards of living across the most populous developing regions of the world.
The Society of Satellite Professionals International works to make the satellite industry one of the world’s best at attracting and engaging the talent that powers innovation. With a network of 4,000 members in 40+ nations, and chapters in the US, UK, India, Japan and Nigeria, the Society is the industry's largest membership organization and manages a portfolio of unique programs.