Pixxel says its hyperspectral imagery will have greater resolution and more bands than other systems. Credit: Pixxel

WASHINGTON — Hyperspectral imaging startup Pixxel raised $36 million in a Series B funding round led by Google.

Pixxel announced June 1 the Series B round, which included Google as well as existing investors Radical Ventures, Lightspeed, Blume Ventures, growx, Sparta and Athera. The company, which did not disclose the valuation of the round, has now raised $71 million.

The company, with offices in the United States and India, is working on a constellation of hyperspectral imaging satellites. It launched its first pathfinder satellites in 2022 and is planning a constellation of 24 satellites it expects to deploy by 2025.

“With this round of funding, we are even closer now to realizing our mission of building a health monitor for the planet and empowering people around the world to make informed decisions about our collective well-being,” Awais Ahmed, chief executive and co-founder of Pixxel, said in a statement.

The funding will go towards development of that constellation as well as an analytics platform called Aurora that the company says will use artificial intelligence technologies to produce useful information products to customers.

Pixxel seeks to tap into growing interesting in hyperspectral data, which provides much greater spectral information but has long has a reputation for being difficult to work with. Pixxel is one of six companies that signed agreements with the National Reconnaissance Office in March for that agency’s Strategic Commercial Enhancements program for hyperspectral imagery. Under the agreements, NRO will assess the company’s technical and business plans, and later procure hyperspectral data for demonstrations.

Google did not comment on its investment in Pixxel, but an industry source said the funding came through the Google for India Digitalisation Fund. That fund, established in 2020, set aside about $10 billion to invest in Indian companies, including those building new products and services relevant for Indian needs, supporting digital transformation efforts, and leveraging technology and artificial intelligence for health, education and agriculture.

The size of Google’s investment in Pixxel was not disclosed, but would be a small fraction of an earlier investment it made in the Earth imaging industry. In 2014, Google paid an estimated $500 million to acquire Skybox Imaging, which was developing a constellation of high-resolution imaging smallsats. Google rebranded Skybox as Terra Bella, but later divested it, transferring it to Planet.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...