WASHINGTON — Kayhan Space, a startup based in Boulder, Colorado, announced Dec. 14 it has closed a $3.7 million seed funding round. The company developed a cloud-based collision-avoidance software service for low Earth orbit satellite operators.
The funding round was co-led by Initialized Capital and Root Ventures, with participation from Overline venture capital and Jacob Helberg, a senior adviser at the Stanford University Center on Geopolitics and Technology.
The company’s space situational awareness and collision avoidance system, called Kayhan Pathfinder, is offered as a subscription-based software as a service. The analytics platform ingests data from U.S. Space Command’s public space catalog, commercial data providers and satellite operators’ own GPS positioning signals, and uses artificial intelligence algorithms to simulate scenarios and generate maneuver plans for operators so they can avoid collisions.
Kayhan’s CEO and co-founder Siamak Hesar previously was a space situational awareness specialist for NASA missions. In an interview, he said the company’s collision-avoidance system is entering the market at a crucial time when space is becoming congested and satellite operators need precise information and timely alerts to avoid collisions.
There are systems available today to monitor space traffic but they use manual processes prone to human error, Hesar said. Commercial satellite operators are growing fast and need better technologies to ensure safety of flight, he said.
Today most conjunctions — or potential collision events — happen between operational satellites and debris objects simply because there are many more debris objects than live satellites, Hesar noted. But with companies projected to deploy megaconstellations of thousands of satellites, “you’re going to have a lot of scenarios where you have operational satellite events. That requires an automated capability to manage and coordinate maneuvers.”
“All the work that we’re doing is dual use,” said Kayhan co-founder Araz Feyzi. “We have decided to focus on both commercial and government business equally going forward.”
Many satellite operators have their own in-house monitoring capability but are now considering using outside services due to increased congestion, said Hesar.
“It’s a very unique time in the space industry,” he said. “You have a lot of new companies that don’t necessarily have all the resources. They do the math and they realize that maybe they should consider purchasing a third-party capability that is focused in this area.”
“We believe that we are going to keep seeing that shift the more congested space becomes,” he said.
Hesar said the company currently has four commercial customers but he could not disclose the names. On the government side, the company has won a Small Business Innovation Research contract from the U.S. Air Force to model the impact of drag on the accuracy of collision risk assessments.
Drag has a significant impact on spacecraft in low Earth orbit, he said. “It’s basically the largest source of error in terms of how well you can predict your objects.”
Kayhan also won an SBIR contract to support U.S. Space Force object tracking.
The recent Russian missile test that blew up a satellite in orbit “clearly showed that we need a better way of tracking the newly generated objects and being able to catalog them as fast as possible,” Hesar said. The space community needs better data, he added. “We’re flying blind.”