NorthStar constellation
SES has said it will work with NorthStar to develop SSA data products tailored for its satellite network using data from NorthStar's future satellite constellation. Credit: SES

WASHINGTON — NorthStar Earth and Space has raised another $15 million to support its first four satellites for tracking objects in orbit, the Canadian company said Dec. 6 as it waits on Rocket Lab to get back to flight so they can launch on a future mission.

The company said it has now raised a total 143 million Canadian dollars ($105 million) for building out a space situational awareness (SSA) business following the Series D funding round.

An initial batch of satellites provided by Spire Global was due to launch this summer with Virgin Orbit before the air-launch company fell into bankruptcy in April.

NorthStar pivoted to Rocket Lab for a fall launch only to face another delay following the September failure of the company’s Electron rocket to deploy an imaging satellite for Capella Space.

After completing an investigation into the failure, Rocket Lab recently said it expects to return to flight from its launchpad in New Zealand no earlier than Dec. 13, with a mission for Institute for Q-shu Pioneers of Space. (iQPS), a Japan-based Earth imaging company.

NorthStar was second in line to launch before Rocket Lab’s September failure. 

Rocket Lab said it plans to share details of the next mission in the queue after launching iQPS. The company’s fastest turnaround record to date between Electron launches is seven days.

Stewart Bain, NorthStar’s CEO, declined to say where its satellites are now in Rocket Lab’s pipeline but said they are currently being packed at Spire’s facilities in Glasgow, Scotland, to be shipped soon to New Zealand.

NorthStar’s latest funding round was supported by Telesystem Space, a family-owned technology fund based in Canada, along with the government of Quebec and Luxembourg Future Fund.

The launch contract with Rocket Lab includes two more missions of four satellites that NorthStar says would be enough to provide full commercial SSA services, designed to track objects as small as five centimeters in low Earth orbit and 40 centimeters in geostationary orbit.

The satellites in the first batch are each the size of 16 cubesats, and NorthStar’s agreement with Spire includes options for up to 30 spacecraft in total, enabling the SSA platform to track objects more frequently.

This article was updated Dec. 8 after NorthStar specified the amount of funding it has raised to date.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...