LeoLabs raises $65 million in Series B funding round
SAN FRANCISCO – LeoLabs plans to accelerate deployment of its global radar network and expand space situational awareness services with $65 million raised in a Series B financing round announced June 3.
“The services we are rolling out are becoming critical for the space industry and we’ve got the technology down with our radar rollouts and our software platform,” Dan Ceperley, LeoLabs CEO and co-founder, told SpaceNews. “Now, it’s all about scaling up. It’s all about going big.”
Instead of building a single radar at a time as the company has to date, LeoLabs will “shift into a mode of building multiple radars concurrently,” Ceperley said.
At the same time, LeoLabs will expand its staff to bring in people with software and data-science expertise to keep tabs on the dramatic growth in activity in low Earth orbit (LEO). Twice as many satellites were launched in 2020 as in any previous year and the launch cadence continues to accelerate.
“The future is really in the analytics,” Ceperley said. “We’ve got to collect all that data and deliver alerts and insights in real time across the entire population of satellites in LEO. That has never been done before.”
LeoLabs tracks satellites and debris in low Earth orbit with six phased-array radars at four sites in Alaska, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Texas. The company also offers collision avoidance service and tracks satellites sent to orbit on packed rideshare missions like SpaceX Transporter 1 flight in January with 143 payloads.
LeoLabs originally planned to establish phased array radars at six sites to track objects in orbit.
With the latest fundraising round, which brings LeoLabs’ total raised to more than $100 million, “you’ll see us continue beyond six,” Ceperley said. “We’ve got the process, the team and the procedures all ironed out. We are going to keep producing radars.”
The radars are not carbon copies, though. LeoLabs continues to update hardware and software. LeoLabs most recent S-band radars unveiled in New Zealand in 2019 and Costa Rica in 2021 are designed to track objects as small as 2 centimeters in diameter.
Former NASA astronaut Ed Lu, LeoLabs co-founder and vice president of strategic projects, said in a recent interview that objects larger than 2 centimeters pose a serious danger to spacecraft and to people working in the International Space Station. LeoLabs estimates that there are about 250,000 objects with diameters between 2 and 10 centimeters, meaning they are large enough to cause damage but too small to be tracked by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network.
By pinpointing everything from 2-centimeter debris to spent rocket stages, LeoLabs intends to create “the global infrastructure that can power that next generation of space operations and space sustainability,” Ceperley said. “Ultimately, it’s the data deficit that limits progress. We’re going to fix that.”
New York-based venture capital firms Insight Partners and Velvet Sea Ventures were the lead investors for LeoLabs’ Series B round. As part of the round, Nick Sinai, Insight Partners senior advisor, is joining LeoLabs’ Board of Directors.
“LeoLabs is uniquely positioned to deliver the data, analytics, and software that government and commercial customers need to understand where satellites and debris are at all times,” Sinai said in a statement.
John Giampetroni, Velvet Sea Ventures managing partner and an early LeoLabs angel investors, said in a statement, “I have watched the team build an end-to-end solution, from radars to its software platform, that makes mission critical analytics available and actionable as a commercial off-the-shelf service to any company interested in leveraging low-earth orbit solutions as a growth driver.”