Iceye captured this three-meter resolution synthetic aperture radar image of Brazil's capital city Brasília earlier this year. Credit: Iceye

SAN FRANCISCO – Radar satellite operator Iceye raised $87 million in a Series C round announced Sept. 22, boosting the Finnish startup’s total investment tally to $152 million.

“We’re grateful to have closed a great round,” Mark Matossian, Iceye US CEO, told SpaceNews. “Now, we can stand on the accelerator.”

With the Series C round completed, Iceye is preparing to launch four small synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites in 2020 and “at least eight” in 2021, Matossian said.

In addition, Iceye US has begun looking for a U.S. manufacturing site. In February, Iceye opened a U.S. office in the San Francisco Bay Area led by Matossian, who managed a series of aerospace programs at Google including the Earth-imaging venture Terra Bella.

Iceye currently operates a constellation of three 100-kilogram SAR satellites manufactured in Europe. The company founded in 2014 also manages a dedicated mission for an unnamed customer.

“This round of investment ensures our SAR satellite constellation will reach a size of at least 12 satellites in 2021, guaranteeing four times a day revisit rate globally,” Rafal Modrzewski​, Iceye CEO and co-founder, said in a statement.

Silicon Valley venture capital firm True Ventures, which led Iceye’s Series A and B rounds, led the firm’s Series C round. Previous Iceye investors who opted to increase their stake include OTB Ventures of Warsaw, Poland, Finnish Industry Investment, Draper Associates of San Mateo, California, London-based Seraphim Capital, Chicago-based Promus Ventures and Space Angels of New York.

New Iceye investors include Luxembourg-based New Space Capital, Luxembourg Future Fund and the European Investment Fund.

OTB Ventures, a firm that primarily backs technology companies in Central and Eastern Europe, committed $30 million to Iceye’s Series C round.

“Iceye is growing tremendously and we love their end-to-end approach,” Adam Niewiński, OTB Ventures co-founder and managing partner, told SpaceNews. “They are building the core bus and developing the software and the infrastructure to manage the satellites.”

In addition, OTB Ventures is impressed with the talent Iceye is attracting.

Iceye “gets thousands of CVs,” Niewiński said. “People prefer to join Iceye rather than traditional government institutions, which used to be the major innovation hubs for space technology.”

That talent is helping Iceye develop third and fourth generation satellites in addition to improving the performance of spacecraft currently flying.

To date, Iceye has operated its satellites “under conservative operating rules,” Matossian said. Now that Iceye has a deep understanding of the satellites and their capabilities, the firm is beginning to collect imagery more frequently during each orbit, he added.

While announcing its Iceye investment, OTB Ventures also unveiled the OTB Space Program I, a new fund to back European space technology companies. OTB Space Program I is supported by the European Investment Fund and the European Commission through the European Union Finance for Innovators program called InnovFin.

Prior to the announcement OTB Ventures backed Iceye and SpaceKnow, a New York firm that specializes in employing artificial intelligence to draw insights from Earth-observation imagery.

OTB Ventures is establishing a new space fund because “on the one hand, space technology is an area we understand and on the other hand we see great momentum for the space industry,” Niewiński said. “We see the industry moving from a phase of experimentation to earning money in a real commercialization phase.”

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...