The space industry has seen an unprecedented surge in startups recent years, each with their own vision for the future of space exploration and commercialization. As we approach the end of 2023, SpaceNews has been faced with the daunting task of selecting one startup to stand out as the Startup of the Year. This is no small feat, given the incredible talent and innovation flourishing in the space industry.

The moment of truth is fast approaching, as we prepare to unveil the winner of the Startup of the Year award on Tuesday, Dec. 5, during the SpaceNews 2023 Icon Awards at the InterContinental Washington D.C. – The Wharf. If you haven’t already, be sure to secure your tickets, and take advantage of the early bird pricing ending on Nov. 8.

In the meantime, we are pleased to spotlight the finalists for the Startup of the Year award, companies that have managed to capture our attention for their contributions to the space industry.

Let’s take a closer look at these remarkable finalists, one of which will be named 2023’s Startup of the Year:

Impulse Space

Led by none other than SpaceX founding rocket designer Tom Mueller, Impulse Space is making waves in the industry by raising an impressive $75 million since last year. What sets them apart? Impulse Space is on a mission to build an in-space transportation company, positioning itself to take full advantage of Starship’s market-transforming rideshare capabilities. Their innovation has the potential to reshape the space transportation landscape.

Isar Aerospace

Based in Germany, Isar Aerospace has made an indelible mark by raising an impressive $165 million Series C in March. This funding is expected to propel Isar through the first launches of its Spectrum vehicle in the coming months and allow it them to scale up production. In a time when Europe is grappling with a launcher crisis due to issues and delays with the Ariane 6 and Vega C, Isar Aerospace’s determination and success in the small launch vehicle sector make them an outstanding finalist.

Kepler Communications

Hailing from Canada, Kepler Communications has attracted widespread attention with their $92 million Series C funding round this year. This investment is fueling their expansion from low data rate IoT connectivity into optical data relay, a hot market driven by the U.S. Space Development Agency’s keen interest in laser communications. Kepler Communications is playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of proliferated LEO communications and missile-tracking constellations.

The Exploration Company

Established in 2021, The Exploration Company has achieved an extraordinary milestone by raising $44 million this year, a record Series A for a European space startup. While this sum might be overshadowed by larger Series A funding rounds in the United States, it marks a significant accomplishment for the European venture capital market. The Exploration Company is focused on resupplying the burgeoning array of commercial space stations in development. The venture had hoped to fly a tiny reentry demonstrator this year on the inaugural launch of Ariane 6. With the European launcher’s latest delay, a SpaceX Falcon 9 could ultimately launch the startup’s first demo mission in 2024.

Stay tuned for more updates as we spotlight the honorees for the other award categories in the days ahead. The world of space is evolving at an incredible pace, and we can’t wait to see who emerges as the ultimate champion of innovation and progress in 2023.

Tickets are on sale now. Early bird pricing ends Nov. 8. 

Stay tuned as we spotlight the honorees for the other award categories in the days ahead!