ICEYE raises another $34 million for radar satellites

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PASADENA, California — ICEYE raised $34 million in a Series B investment round, bringing the Finnish commercial radar satellite operator’s total funding to $53 million, ICEYE announced May 24.

With the Series B money, ICEYE plans to further develop its Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technology, pay for additional satellite launches and enhance analytics services for its customers.

“From my perspective, [the funding] allows us to go back to our customers and say, ‘The constellation we’ve been talking about is a reality. We’ve got money to build satellites. We’ve got money to buy rockets. Now, let’s plan what you would like to observe and how frequently,'” Rafal Modrzewski, ICEYE chief executive and co-founder, told SpaceNews.

ICEYE launched the first commercial SAR microsatellite, weighing 70-kilogram, in January on an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. It has contracts to launch two additional satellites this year, one each with SpaceX and Rocket Lab.

In analytics, ICEYE is focusing initially on the maritime industry. “We have an algorithm that automatically extracts data on vessels and their locations,” Modrzewski said. “We are building an additional layer that analyzes how the vessels move to determine whether they are fishing vessels, military vessels, illegal fishing vessels or some sort of vessel with an undefined pattern that should be verified.” In addition, ICEYE is working on an algorithm to automatically recognize and classify various types of ice.

ICEYE’s latest funding round was led by True Ventures. Draper Nexus, Draper Associates, Seraphim Capital and Space Angels, venture capital firms that contributed to earlier rounds, also provided funding. For its Series B round, ICEYE attracted new investors: OTB Ventures, Tesi, Draper Esprit and Promus Ventures.

ICEYE plans to launch nine SAR satellites by the end of 2019. The company is looking for rides into orbit for those spacecraft.

The company’s first mission, ICEYE-X1, is no longer conducting commercial operations. Still, X1 was a successful mission, Modrzewski said, because even though the satellite was “by no means perfect,” it captured SAR imagery and provided important lessons for engineers building additional SAR satellites. ICEYE follows an iterative model, called agile hardware development, to continually improve the performance of its satellites. From X1, ICEYE identified more than 150 issues, both large and small. The company has corrected more than 50 of those issues for future satellites, beginning with X2, Modrzewski said.