Aerial-simulated image to show the expected resolution of the optical sensor on Albedo satellites. Credit: Albedo

SAN FRANCISCO – Earth observation startup Albedo raised $48 million in a Series A funding round led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Shield Capital. Participating in the round were new and existing Albedo investors including Republic Capital, San Francisco-based Giant Step Capital Partners, C16 Ventures, Initialized Capital, Liquid 2 and SNR.

With the cash infusion announced Sept. 7, Albedo plans to complete development and testing of its first satellite destined for very low Earth orbit, or VLEO, as well as the software for satellite operations and imagery distribution.

“This basically allows us to start going heads-down on executing our technical roadmap with flying in VLEO and obtaining this level of resolution in both optical and thermal infrared,” Topher Haddad, Albedo co-founder and CEO, told SpaceNews. “There’s a lot of new core technologies that we’re developing to enable us to do that.”

Albedo, based in Austin, Texas, and Denver, is developing satellites to acquire optical imagery with a resolution of 10 centimeters per pixel and thermal infrared imagery with two-meter resolution on the same platform. Because the satellites will obtain optical and thermal infrared imagery nearly simultaneously, Albedo can use the higher-resolution optical imagery to sharpen features in the thermal infrared imagery and offer “insights that you couldn’t get if you had thermal on its own,” Haddad said.

The resulting imagery, which can reveal moisture levels, temperature differences and energy efficiency, has applications for precision agriculture, mapping, insurance, vegetation management, construction, pipeline monitoring, urban planning and defense.

“To reach net zero, we will need high fidelity visual and thermal data that is available at low cost and high frequency, enabling a host of Earth science focused climate solutions,” Carmichael Roberts of Breakthrough Energy Ventures said in a statement. “Albedo is the first company we’ve seen that can provide this data that will enable applications for precision agriculture, forestry management, and wildfire prevention and management.”

Earth observation experts say that classified U.S. government satellites obtain optical imagery with a resolution of about 10 centimeters per pixel. As an example, they point to images of a damaged Iranian launchpad tweeted in 2019 by then-President Trump.

At that resolution level, analysts can classify military vehicles and aircraft, and observe missile tests.

In December, Albedo received a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration license to sell commercial optical imagery with a resolution of 10 centimeters per pixel. In April 2021, the company raised $10 million in a Seed funding round.

“Beyond the capital, we couldn’t be more excited to partner with two lead investors who reflect the markets with some of the strongest needs for Albedo’s imagery,” said Haddad said in a statement. “We have an exciting and challenging road ahead. With the new funding and regulatory risks behind us, it’s time to ramp up our technical development and execute on bringing this capability to market.”

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...