Many people believe that all space companies are engaged only in creating and launching rockets and satellites. However, the exploration and use of space require many complex technologies to complete various missions. One organization that makes such technologies is Tendeg, the developer and operator of space antennas and deployable structures. In other words, it creates components of satellites allowing scientists or commercial companies to collect, measure, and transfer data.
The company was founded in 2007 by Gregg Freebury and Neal Beidleman. According to some sources, the first version of Tendeg was created in 1995. A year earlier, Neal Beidleman registered an engineering company IDEA Incorporated. Beidleman and Freebury were listed as IDEA’s staff members. In any case, until 2015, the founders were not involved in aerospace. The first known Tendeg’s patent related to antennas development was filed only in 2014. Moreover, 2015 is indicated as the official year of Tendeg’s foundation in some specification of antennas, while the presentations shows that it was 2016.
Such background demonstrates the rather extensive experience of its founders. For over thirty years, Gregg Freebury – Tendeg’s CEO and Principal Engineer – has been designing and developing aerospace and aircraft vehicles. He worked as a senior engineer for Northrop-Grumman and L-3 Avionics Systems. Interesting fact is that Freebury’s biography also includes achievements standing out of his current career path. For example, he made patents for orthopedic insoles and participated in the invention of vacuum insulation of windows. Moreover, he is a co-author of 19 scientific publications and 24 patents. Another Tendeg’s co-founder and senior engineer, Beidleman, is a co-author of 20 of these patents. He also has 30 years of experience in mechanism, satellite solar array, and satellite vehicle design and test, who worked for Ball Aerospace, Interferometrics, and Orbital.
The leaders’ reputation and experience have likely given them the trust of NASA, which is their primary public client and provider of the government orders. For instance, Tendeg signed its first contract with NASA in September 2015, becoming a subcontractor of engineering consulting in the aerospace industry Roccor, LLC. Tendeg was assigned to develop a Ka-band “ROC-Rib” mesh antenna for the 2U-3U CubeSat. Until 2020, the total cost of government contracts with NASA has reached more than $ 6 million. One of the later projects aimed at studying the behavior of tropical storms and thunderstorms planned for 2027 is also funded by NASA, which has selected Tendeg as one of the satellite components suppliers.
Although Tendeg does not reveal its other clients due to confidentiality rules, there are reasons to suggest its partnership with Capella Space, launching and operating Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites company. So far, Cappela has only launched two SAR satellites, Denali in 2018 and Sequoia in 2020. Most of its projects are planned for the future, and likely, Tendeg’s antennas will be used on the company’s satellites. This proposal has already been heard earlier from Christian Lenz, Capella’s CTO, who previously worked with Tendeg. Additionally, Capella founder Payam Banazadeh completed three summer internships and worked as a systems engineer at JPL. During the same period, the current CTO of Tendeg, Mark Thomson, held the position of Chief Engineer. Most likely, former colleagues still maintain professional contact with the entire team as they often have common events and projects. For example, Banazadeh and Freebury were speakers at the Small Satellite Conference and participated in the JPL / Stanford University joint project in 2016. So, it is likely that the companies continue to cooperate, which is beneficial for both parties that have not achieved great success yet.
So far, the public knows about only one successful launch and deployment of Tendeg technologies in space. In 2018, The NASA / JPL KaPDA antenna was deployed and operated on the RainCube, identifying atmospheric water vapor. Although the project is collaborative, Tendeg holds an exclusive license from JPL for KaPDA, which can be used for commercial purposes. Another project, JPL Starshade, focused on the search for Earth-like exoplanets, is still in development.