SAN FRANCISCO – Silicon Valley startup Array Labs raised $5 million in a seed funding round backed by Seraphim Space and Agya Ventures, a real estate technology fund.
With the infusion of capital, Array Labs is developing a constellation of radar satellites to fly in formation and gather global 3D imagery.
“We’re imaging the same location at the same time from multiple different perspectives,” said Andrew Peterson, Array Labs co-founder and CEO, told SpaceNews. “That allows us to generate a high-resolution three-dimensional data product for the first time.”
Since founding the company in 2021, Array Labs has participated in two high-profile accelerators: Seraphim Space Camp and Y Combinator. The accelerators have opened doors to potential investors, customers and industry partners, Peterson said.
After investing in 11 Earth-observation and satellite-communications, Seraphim Space investors thought they had “seen companies across all modalities,” said Lewis Jones, a San Francisco-based associate with Generation Space, Seraphim Space’s U.S. division. “But no one had contemplated 3D datasets in a cost-effective manner.”
Two decades ago, the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate planned to operate three radar satellites in formation as part of a reconnaissance mission called TechSat 21. The program was canceled in 2003.
“The technology wasn’t there yet,” said Peterson, an aerospace engineer who previously worked for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Moog Space and Defense. “With cubesats and the new RF componentry we have thanks to 5G, we’re able to do new things.”
Currently, demand for 3D imagery is often satisfied with airborne lidar. Array Labs will offer better coverage and less expensive data, Jones said.
Jones and Peterson also see important applications for Array Labs’ 3D datasets in evolving markets for virtual and augmented reality.
“All the blue-chip tech companies are trying to build digital twins of the world,” Peterson said. “If I want to drop a character into a virtual scene, being able to understand where the buildings and physical features are would be super helpful.”
In preparation for its constellation, Array Labs is designing a three-unit cubesat equipped with a flat panel antenna that has a solar array on its backside. The technology demonstrator is scheduled to launch within 18 months. An operational cluster would follow 12 to 18 months later.
“Within the next two or three years, we will have an initial constellation of these satellites operating and collecting data,” Peterson said.