Hydrosat, a startup building a constellation of thermal infrared imaging satellites, shows how its sensor highlights wildfire hot spots in contrast to visible imagery, which can be obscured by smoke. Credit: Hydrosat

SAN FRANCISCO – Hydrosat, a geospatial data and analytics startup, raised $10 million in seed funding for a constellation of satellites to gather data for thermal infrared maps.

Washington-based Hydrosat has raised $15 million to date for satellites designed to monitor Earth’s water cycle, shedding light on environmental conditions like drought and flash floods exacerbated by climate change.

Hydrosat’s venture funding round was led by OTB Ventures. Participants include Freeflow Ventures, Cultivation Capital, Santa Barbara Venture Partners and Expon Capital.

“Earth’s freshwater resources are under stress brought on by the collision of climate change and population growth,” Hydrosat CEO Pieter Fossel said in a statement. “Mega droughts, such as the one currently impacting the western and central United States lead to declines in crop yields. Meanwhile wildfires and environmental damage create further economic loss with devastating impact to human life.”

Hydrosat intends to gather data from a constellation of satellites to monitor surface temperatures globally. The company’s first satellite mission, VanZyl-1, which is “fully funded and is under construction,” is scheduled to launch with Loft Orbital in 2022, Fossel told SpaceNews by email.

With the additional seed funding, Hydrosat is developing commercial analytics products, which it plans to roll out before its first mission launches. In addition, the funding round will help Hydrosat expand its engineering, product and business development staffs, Fossel said.

Adam Niewinski, OTB co-founder and general partner, said in a statement that OTB’s investment was due in part to Hydrosat’s “robust analytics capability, even before a single spacecraft is in orbit.”

Earlier this year, Hydrosat tested its first-generation thermal infrared imager on a stratospheric balloon. A second generation of the instrument is being built in Hydrosat’s lab, Fossel said.

The recent climate conference in Glasgow and the Biden Administration’s infrastructure legislation, which includes funding to help communities respond to climate change, “underscore both the need and the opportunity for Hydrosat,” Fossel said. “The world needs a lot more land surface temperature data to better assess and manage the impacts of climate change. We are on a mission to get our data into the hands of users as quickly as possible to meet these needs.”

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...