SAN FRANCISCO – LeoLabs, a Silicon Valley space mapping startup, announced July 26 it raised $13 million in a Series A funding round led by WERU Investment of Tokyo and Airbus Ventures, the European aerospace giant’s early-stage investment group.
LeoLabs tracks spacecraft and debris in low Earth orbit with phased-array radars in Midland, Texas, and Fairbanks, Alaska. With the new Series A funding, LeoLabs plans to expand its radar network outside the United States and enhance its software platform, which offers applications for companies and organizations interested in spacecraft safety and space situational awareness, Dan Ceperley, LeoLabs founder and chief executive, told SpaceNews.
“We provide subscription services for low Earth orbit mapping and space situational awareness to satellite operators, the insurance industry and government agencies in the U.S. and globally,” Ceperley said.
Because of that global focus, Ceperley said he was gratified that LeoLabs’ latest investment round was led by investors with extensive contacts in Japan and Europe, two of the world’s space powers.
LeoLabs is not yet disclosing the location of its additional radars. However, the company plans to operate six radars around the world “within a couple of years” to track everything two centimeters or larger, approximately 250,000 objects, Ceperley said.
Once all six radars are operating, LeoLabs will give customers “many looks per day” at objects in low Earth orbit, which will be particularly important when a rocket launches or a satellite malfunctions, Ceperley said.
LeoLabs now employs 15 people. The company plans to expand its team to 25 in the next six month and anticipates further growth in 2019.
Low Earth orbit is expected to become increasingly crowded in the next decade as companies and government agencies send up constellations of Earth observation and communications satellites.
“We are excited about LeoLabs’ vision and the progress they’ve made on both the radar network and the Space Situational Awareness platform,” Julien Etaix, investment partner at Airbus Ventures of Menlo Park, California, said in the announcement. “As new mega-constellations come online in 2019 and new generations of operational and AI-based tools are required, LeoLabs is well-positioned as the logical foundation to serve all these activities.”
Tadashi Takiguchi, WERU Investment president and chief executive, said in the announcement, “LeoLabs’ impressive platform vision and deep radar expertise are perfectly timed to address the space debris problem in LEO. There is a universal need for more data among the global space community, and we believe LeoLabs will play a pivotal role in preserving LEO for future generations.”