TAMPA, Fla. — Australian startup Q-Ctrl has raised $25 million to develop software for space-qualified quantum sensors in a funding round led by Airbus Ventures, the venture capital arm of European aerospace and defense giant Airbus.
Proceeds from the Series B round will accelerate the development of quantum technology to realize new data-as-a-service markets from low Earth orbit, the moon and beyond, according to Q-Ctrl founder and CEO Michael Biercuk.
“We are developing totally new technology in this area to measure gravity and magnetic fields — it’s our unique focus on building new data-as-a-service markets via quantum sensing from sea, land, air, and space that promises enormous value capture,” Biercuk told SpaceNews via email.
Biercuk said Q-Ctrl aims to leverage the experience Airbus Ventures has in Earth observation missions as it develops infrastructure software to improve quantum sensing solutions.
“We have extremely ambitious plans to change technology from computing through to climate monitoring and defence surveillance, and Airbus Ventures has equally lofty goals,” he said.
Early-stage investor Ridgeline Partners joined Airbus Ventures as a new investor in Q-Ctrl through the Series B , joined by existing investors including Main Sequence Ventures, Horizons Ventures, SquarePeg Capital, Sierra Ventures, DCVC, Sequoia Capital China and In-Q-Tel.
The Series B was “completely opportunistic” and means Q-Ctrl has raised more than $42 million to date, according to Biercuk.
He said the startup still had 75% of the $15 million Series A round it closed in 2019 available when it began causally meeting potential investors.
“We spoke to a range of investors, but once we met Airbus Ventures and understood their vision for technology, we were overjoyed with the prospect of working together,” he said.
New quantum markets
Airbus Ventures partner Lewis Pinault said in a statement that Airbus Ventures is particularly interested in advanced applications and solutions that include “lunar development, geospatial intelligence, and Earth observation, all increasingly critical in the global effort to address the accelerating planetary system crises we now face.”
Q-Ctrl’s work in Earth observation with quantum sensors is directly aligned with Airbus Ventures’ search for new technologies to combat climate change, Biercuk said, because space-based quantum sensors can be used to improve underground water, ocean current and ice cap measurements.
“The parent company Airbus … also has direct experience in space-based gravimetry, the foundational capability we’re improving with quantum sensors, making for incredible strategic and technical mission alignment,” he added.
Q-Ctrl said it recently demonstrated how its core technology can improve the performance of quantum algorithms running on existing quantum computers by more than 2500%.
The Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars Program and the Australian Department of Defence are supporting the startup’s development, according to Biercuk.
He said Q-Ctrl also has a commercial partnership with Australian navigation and robotics technology provider Advanced Navigation, aiming to deploy a new generation of quantum accelerometers for enabling locations services underground, underwater and in space where GPS services cannot reach.
The startup is also part of a group of Australian companies and academic institutions planning to send sensor-laden nanosatellites to the moon in search of water and other resources in 2023, part of an initiative called Seven Sisters that Fleet Space Technologies founded.
Australian nanosatellite startup Fleet Space Technologies raised $26.4 million in a Series B round earlier in November, part of plans to establish a satellite constellation for internet-connected devices.