Satellogic raises $50 million to build out imaging constellation

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TITUSVILLE, Fla. — Commercial Earth imaging company Satellogic announced Dec. 19 that it has raised $50 million to help it scale up its satellite constellation.

The company, headquartered in Buenos Aires, said it raised the new funding round from a mix of new and existing investors. Two existing investors, Chinese company Tencent and Brazilian fund Pitanga, contributed about 40% of the funding. The rest came from new investors, including IDB Lab, the “innovation laboratory” of the Inter-American Development Bank.

“At IDB Lab, our mission is to leverage innovation towards inclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Tomás Lopes Teixeira, senior investment officer at IDB Lab, in a statement. “We’re excited to support Satellogic’s mission of democratizing access to geospatial analytics solutions.”

In an interview, Emiliano Kargieman, chief executive of Satellogic, said the funding will enable the company to speed up the deployment of its satellite constellation, with the goal of providing imagery of the entire Earth at a resolution of one meter and updated every week.

“This funding, for us, is a way for us to continue to build on our momentum,” he said. “We’re going to use the proceeds to fund more technology development and product development, but also to scale up our constellation of satellites a little quicker.”

The company has eight satellites in orbit and plans to launch 16 satellites in 2020, with the first two scheduled to launch from China in mid-January. “We’re looking at opportunities to see if we can speed up our rollout,” Kargieman said.

To achieve that goal of “remapping” the globe weekly at one-meter resolution will require a constellation of about 90 satellites. He said the company has plans to do that over the course of 24 months, but will need to increase its manufacturing capacity and launch rate in order to do so.

The technology development the funding enables will go towards improving the capability of the satellites, with plans to sharpen the imaging resolution to 70 centimeters. Other improvements will include increasing downlink capacity and improved on-orbit processing of images. “We’re going to continue to push the limits of what you can do with a small optical imaging satellite,” he said.

The funding will also enable more product development work. “We’re working on packaging the data that our satellites deliver in ways that can better serve our customers,” he said. “It will make it easier for companies to use satellite data for decision making.”

The funding announcement comes three months after Satellogic announced a $38 million agreement with ABDAS, a Chinese data science company, for a product Satellogic calles a “dedicated satellite constellation.” ABDAS will have control over what sites to observe within China’s Henan Province when the satellites are passing overhead.

The company hasn’t announced any new dedicated satellite constellation customers since then, but Kargieman said there’s considerable interest in the concept. “It’s had a lot of traction with governments, particularly governments that don’t have their own existing Earth observation capacity,” he said. “This ‘satellite as a service’ model that we’re offering has excellent capabilities at a fraction of the cost of any alternatives.”

This funding round, he said, should be enough to see the company through to profitability. “With the backlog and pipeline that we currently have, and this funding, we can start scaling up our constellation of satellites and work on technology development and still be in a position to keep the company profitable and growing.”