Alexspace's GRUS-1E satellite launched in March obtained this image of Chicago O’Hare International Airport on May 2, 2021. Credit: Axelspace

SAN FRANCISCO – Axelspace, the Japanese firm planning to offer daily global optical imagery, raised 2.58 billion Japanese yen ($23.8 million) in a Series C investment round announced May 14 in Tokyo, May 13 in the United States.

The Space Frontier Fund managed by Sparx Innovation for Future Co. provided funding alongside other venture capital firms and investment funds managed by Global Brain Corp., Japan Post Investment Corp., Kyocera Corp., Mitsubishi UFJ Capital Co. Ltd., Mitsui Fudosan Co. Ltd. and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Investment Co. Ltd.

Axelspace launched its first 100-kilogram satellite in 2018 and raised $22.8 million in a Series B funding round. The company sent four more satellites into sun-synchronous orbit in March.

With funds from the Series C round, Axelspace will manufacture, launch and begin operating five additional satellites in 2023, Axelspace CEO Yuya Nakamura told SpaceNews. With a ten-satellite constellation, Axelspace will have daily opportunities to obtain imagery of mid-latitude regions including Japan, he added.

Axelspace’s GRUS satellites are designed to gather panchromatic imagery with a resolution of 2.5 meters and red, blue and green, near-infrared and red-edge imagery with 5-meter resolution. Axelspace also sells 2.5 meter pan-sharpened images through AxelGlobe, its web-based platform.

The red-edge band, introduced on commercial satellites by the RapidEye constellation, is a popular tool for monitoring the health of vegetation. Planet retired the RapidEye constellation in 2020.

Axelspace sees a competitive advantage in capturing large areas in a single image.

“Axelspace is about capturing macro data,” said Yasunori Yamazaki, Axelspace chief brand officer. “Horizontally, we are able to capture 57 kilometers and we are able to capture 1,000 kilometers vertically. One shot coming from one sensor on the same satellite is easier for clients to analyze than a mosaic of images with data coming from different times of the day, different orbits and different sensors.”

Of Axelspace’s 80 employees, more than 50 are engineers from all over the world. Attracting global talent is priority for the firm, Yamazaki said.

Closing an investment round during the COVID-19 pandemic posed challenges. In spite of limitations on travel and supply chain disruptions, the firm succeeded in keeping its work moving forward and attracting investors, Nakamura said.

One investor, Shinji Kato, a project manager in the venture co-creation department business development group at Japanese real estate firm Mitsui Fudosan said in a statement, that AxelGlobe’s plan to monitor the whole Earth with high frequency offers “big potential to create a new industry beyond our core business of community development.”

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...