SAN FRANCISCO — Business Finland, a Finnish trade and economic development agency, awarded a 10 million Euro ($11.36 million) grant to radar satellite operator ICEYE.
The grant, announced Dec. 14, will help ICEYE “maintain the very tight launch schedule ahead,” Rafal Modrzewski, ICEYE chief executive and co-founder, said by email.
ICEYE launched the first SAR microsatellite in early 2018 and the second, ICEYE-X2, Dec. 3 on the Space X Falcon 9 rideshare mission. ICEYE engineers are integrating and testing the firm’s third and fourth satellites.
ICEYE plans to launch between five and eight satellites in 2019 to create an operational constellation of at least six satellites, offering “unprecedented capacity and revisit times,” Modrzewski told SpaceNews. “The service level for us is more of a priority than the hard number of satellites.”
Eventually, ICEYE plans to establish an 18-satellite constellation capable of revisiting targets of interest an average of every three hours. In response to customer need, ICEYE may augment its constellation or send spacecraft into specific orbits, Modrzewski said.
To date, ICEYE has raised more than $65 million, including $34 million in a Series B investment round completed in May. ICEYE considers the latest Business Finland grant part of that round, bringing its Series B total above $45 million, Modrzewski said.
ICEYE planned to launch ICEYE-X3 in 2018 but “unfortunately due to launch delays, this mission is currently scheduled for the first half of 2019,” Modrzewski said. “We’re going to keep building satellites for launches, regardless of if individual pieces of the puzzle move around.”
ICEYE is seeking rides for additional satellites and is eager to speak with launch providers, Modrzewski said.
Modrzewski and Pekka Laurila founded ICEYE in 2014 after meeting at Finland’s Aalto University. ICEYE performs general engineering work and manages its global operations from its headquarters in Finland. The firm’s satellite operations, customer service and FPGA programming employees work in Warsaw, Poland. ICEYE has expanded its sales team to cover the United States, Asia, Europe and South America, Modrzewski said.
ICEYE’s latest grant comes from Business Finland’s Growth Engine, a fund designed to support cooperative networks that involve companies, research organizations and public agencies in business ventures capable of generating new activity worth more than one billion Euros.
“With the help of funding from Business Finland, ICEYE is working to create opportunities for other organizations and generating new industry applications from location-based information,” Jussi Sainiemi, funding director for Tesi, a Finnish government investment company, said in a statement. “With this ecosystem that is built around data, there’s significant potential for creating new talent and business opportunities.”
One such opportunity is in autonomous shipping. “At sea, you need frequently updated information that can be gathered with radar satellites,” Jukka Merenluoto, director of One Sea from DIMECC, said in a statement. DIMECC, which stands for Digital, Internet, Materials and Engineering Co-Creation, is a company based in Helsinki aimed at spurring the digital transformation of industries. One Sea is a Finnish campaign focused on autonomous shipping.