WASHINGTON — Emerging companies in the space industry, ranging from launch vehicle developers to satellite services providers, have raised more than $2 billion from investors since 2012, although the vast majority of that funding came from just two deals earlier this year.
A report released Aug. 28 by CB Insights, a New York-based financial intelligence firm, concluded that investments in space companies since the beginning of 2012 totaled $2.16 billion, including $1.75 billion in the first half of 2015 alone.
Most of that funding, though, came in just two deals. In January, SpaceX raised $1 billion from Google and Fidelity in exchange for just under 10 percent of the company. In June, OneWeb raised $500 million from several companies, from satellite operator Intelsat to Coca-Cola, to start development of its low Earth orbit broadband satellite constellation.
Michael Dempsey, the CB Insights analyst who wrote the report, acknowledged that those two investments skewed the overall numbers, but said overall investment activity was growing. The company tracked 22 space-related deals in the first half of 2015, compared to 23 in all of 2014.
He added that there was more than $100 million in investments in space companies other than SpaceX and OneWeb in each of the first two quarters of 2015. “We expect that trend to continue for the time being,” he said.
After SpaceX and OneWeb, the space company that has raised the most money is Planet Labs, which has raised $196.1 million to build a constellation of small Earth observation satellites. Kymeta, which is developing advanced antennas for satellite communications, has raised $82 million. Spire, a company creating a network of small satellites to collect weather data, has raised $69.4 million.
Nearly half of the space companies that have raised funding are in a category called “space services/rocket tech” by CB Insights, which includes SpaceX as well as suborbital vehicle developers Masten Space Systems and XCOR Aerospace. A third are in satellite operations and technology, which includes OneWeb, Planet Labs and Spire. The rest are companies that analyze space imagery for various applications, such as Mapbox and Orbital Insight.
The overall space industry is one of three emerging fields, along with drones and virtual reality, that CB Insights classifies as “frontier tech.” Space is the largest of the three, accounting for nearly $1.9 billion of the $3.2 billion raised by all frontier tech companies since the beginning of 2014.
Those funding trends might be affected by current market volatility. Space and other frontier tech companies, Dempsey suggested, may not as susceptible as other companies since investors have longer time horizons and thus are willing to ride out short-term fluctuations in the market.
However, he added, “if capital investment slows down, some of these companies, especially those focused in the space sector, may be forced to sell or shut down due to their capital intensiveness relative to other industries.”