Though profitable, Simera said it needed growth capital to expand production facilities and serve increasing worldwide demand for optical systems. Credit: Simera Sense

TAMPA, Fla. — Belgian camera maker Simera Sense has raised nearly $15 million to expand system assembly facilities out of South Africa and closer to its component producers in Europe to develop higher-resolution cubesat products.

Simera Sense CEO and cofounder Johann du Toit said the company is also looking to establish a new facility this year, likely in Europe, to increase production capacity at least five times to meet growing demand from Earth observation satellite manufacturers. 

“Our current production capacity is about 25 payloads plus additional 30-40 engineering and test models per year,” he told SpaceNews via email.

“We wish to scale to 150 to 200 payloads per year, of multiple configurations.”

Founded in 2018, Simera Sense is a specialized business unit within Simera Group, a 14-year-old multi-disciplinary engineering company based in South Africa.

While Simera Sense’s main production facility is in Somerset West, South Africa, du Toit said numerous critical incoming optical components are currently manufactured in Europe.

Doubling a development team of about 34 people over the next two years would enable closer and more effective integration with key material and component suppliers in Europe, he added, and also better collaboration with partners involved in product development.

However, he said Simera Sense’s main production facilities will remain in South Africa over the near term.

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Simera Sense’s satellite manufacturer customers in Europe include AAC Clyde Space, Open Cosmos, and OHB Systems. 

The company also collaborates with institutions and is supporting the European Space Agency’s Phi-Sat-2 mission for testing artificial intelligence capabilities on an Earth observation cubesat.

Its flagship xScape100 product range offers monochromatic to hyperspectral imagery with a 4.75 meter ground sampling distance, and du Toit said more than 10 these imagers have launched to date.

He said the extra funding will help the company fast-track the development of higher resolution and more advanced short-wave infrared camera products.

Simera Sense is also developing technology that could be embedded in camera control electronics to process imagery data from space.

A typical satellite camera might take hundreds of pictures and send all that data to Earth for processing, even when only a small proportion of that data is usable.

Cameras able to process raw data and only return what is useful could send information faster and use less bandwidth, according to du Toit. 

The expansion capital is Simera Sense’s first major fundraising effort after it was set up with about 1.2 million euros ($1.3 million) in seed capital.

Growth capital investor NewSpace Capital led the funding round, which was also backed by Knife Capital.

NewSpace Capital managing partner Bogdan Gogulan said he sees many synergies between Simera Sense and its other investments, which include synthetic aperture radar operator Iceye, geoanalytics provider Kayrros, and ground-to-space laser communications specialist Cailabs.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...