Xplore is best known for its plans to develop Xcraft, a multi-mission ESPA-class spacecraft. ESPA is a secondary payload adapter for launch vehicles. Credit: Xplore

SAN FRANCISCO – Space-as-a-service startup Xplore has brought in $16.2 million to date including venture capital funding and contracts, the company announced Feb. 24.

“Xplore’s funding is being used to support the aggressive growth of our team and enable us to meet our development milestones,” Lisa Rich, Xplore co-founder and chief operating officer, told SpaceNews by email.

Xplore declined to provide details on funding rounds conducted to date, but the release notes the Washington state startup has attracted approximately $4 million in non-dilutive funding in the past 24 months, including awards from the U.S. Air Force, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

Xplore, founded in 2017, is preparing to launch its first satellite this year on an Orbital Astronautics Ltd. nanosatellite.

National Security Innovation Capital, a hardware development accelerator within the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit, awarded Xplore a $2 million contract last year to accelerate development of Xcraft, the company’s ESPA-class multi-mission spacecraft platform.

In 2020, NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts gave a team that includes NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Aerospace Corp. and Xplore a $2 million grant for work on technology to harness the sun’s gravitational field to gather imagery of planets orbiting distant stars.

In addition, the U.S. Air Force awarded Xplore a $50,000 contract in 2020 to study positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) solutions for cislunar space.

“Xplore’s approach to space exploration is to demonstrate existing PNT techniques and algorithmic solutions on its 2021 lunar mission that lay the foundation to establish a distributed set of commercial and government PNT nodes across cislunar space with every US launch,” according to the SBIR.gov website.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awarded Xplore a $670,112 contract in 2020 to evaluate the feasibility of sending a commercial mission to L1 to provide early detection of solar events that would threaten telecommunications satellites and the terrestrial power grid.

Investor support has been key to the company’s early success, Jeff Rich, Xplore founder and CEO, said in a statement.

Investors include: Alumni Ventures, Brightstone Venture Capital, KittyHawk Ventures, Private Shares Fund, Starbridge Venture Capital, Helios Capital, Lombard Street, Gaingels, Tremendous View, Kingfisher Capital and Dylan Taylor, the Voyager Space CEO who a passenger on the Dec. 11 flight of the Blue Origin New Shepard suborbital vehicle.

Will Weisman, KittyHawk Ventures founder and managing partner, said in a statement that his firm was proud to add Xplore to its portfolio because the company “understands how to set business and technical milestones that reach the summit.”

Erik Hammer, Alumni Ventures managing director, said in a statement that his firm was impressed with Xplore’s “technical progress and early commercial traction.”

Steven Jorgenson, Starbridge Venture Capital founder and general partner, said in a statement that his firm believes Xplore can help clients “bypass the maze of issues faced when trying to gain value out of the space environment today: often these groups want space data, but don’t want the high cost and complexity of becoming satellite operations specialists to get it.”

David Dalvey, Brightstone Venture Capital managing partner, said in a statement that his firm appreciated the fact that Xplore vehicles are designed not only for Earth orbit but for lunar and interplanetary operations, as well.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...