Shares of Planet Labs (PL -2.70%), the tiny space company that's built the world's largest constellation of Earth observation satellites, rocketed to the moon Wednesday morning, shooting 14.2% higher (as of 11:55 a.m. ET) after announcing that it has landed a contract with America's National Reconnaissance Office -- the NRO, the nation's spy satellite factory.
The NRO awarded Planet's subsidiary Planet Labs Federal a potential 10-year electro-optical commercial layer (EOCL) contract to supply unclassified medium-resolution and high-resolution commercial satellite imagery to the government.
Initially, the contract will run for a five-year base period, with potential "options" extending the total duration to a full decade. NRO will have access both to new images taken daily and to Planet's archive of "over 2,000 images of every point on the Earth's landmass, dating back to 2009."
This is big news for Planet, but -- it's worth pointing out -- not only for Planet.
While Planet didn't emphasize this point in its press release, NRO actually awarded EOCL contracts to two other satellite imaging companies as well -- fellow start-up BlackSky (BKSY -2.70%), which operates a 14-satellite constellation, and shares of which have literally doubled on the news (to about $2.24 a share); and more established Earth imaging specialist Maxar Technologies (MAXR), shares of which are up 16.1%.
Maxar noted that the NRO's EOCL contract "represents the largest ever commercial imagery acquisition contract awarded by the NRO." In SEC filings, the company further clarified that it expects to receive as much as $3.2 billion in revenue over 10 years from its work on the contract. BlackSky said it's looking for $1 billion over 10 years. And CNBC has quoted NRO confirming that the three contracts' combined value is in the "billions of dollars" over a 10-year period.
As for Planet Labs, it hasn't yet stated a value for its contract. But seeing as it has a satellite fleet in orbit that's bigger than BlackSky's and Maxar's combined ... I think you can assume it's going to be a pretty big number.