Capella Space, an aerospace and information services company providing on-demand Earth Observation (EO) data via advanced space radar, has announced $19 million Series B funding, led by Spark Capital and DCVC (Data Collective).
This funding will finance the first operational launches of the company’s cloud-penetrating, radar-powered smallsats, designed to deliver high-quality imaging anywhere and under any condition, day or night.
Capella’s satellite, the size of a backpack on launch, combines an origami-like antenna that unfolds to almost 100 square feet with radically efficient electronics that together deliver effectively the same image quality as radar satellites the size of a school bus. The first Capella test satellite launch is scheduled for November 2018 before next year’s first operational launches of a planned 36-satellite constellation that will deliver reliable images from anywhere on the planet in under an hour.
According to Capella Space, they are the first private U.S. company to develop small synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites for the commercial market. Capella’s satellites are less than half the size of other SAR small satellites, and 30x smaller and hundreds of times less expensive than traditional SAR satellites that can cost in the neighborhood of $500 million and can take days to deliver images.
Due to the small size of Capella’s satellites, the company can launch faster, with far fewer rockets and significantly less capital than any other company. The firm's design lies at the heart of the company’s long-term strategy to rapidly establish a symmetrical 12-plane, high-revisit constellation that will produce more SAR images than the entire industry combined, at greater speed and lower cost than any satellite on orbit.
Traditional electro-optical satellites can only monitor 25 percent of the planet at any time. By bouncing microwave pulses off targets and measuring reflected energy, Capella’s radar technology sees through all weather conditions and at night to capture high-resolution images, quadrupling access to the visible world. Capella can uniquely detect and track changes in the position of metal objects, from small North Korean smuggling freighters to bridges that an insurer is being asked to underwrite. Capella’s technology can also penetrate the ground to see hidden assets, such as water for irrigation, and otherwise undetectable problems, such as leaky underground pipes in chemical plants.
Payam Banazadeh, CEO and founder of Capella Space, stated that the firm designed Capella’s constellation around a unique combination of spacecraft size, resolution and coverage to crack the code for customers, allowing them to reliably buy images they need at a lower cost. Capella has already lined up tens of millions of dollars in pre-sale commitments from commercial and government customers and the firm is committed to unlock new possibilities for Earth imagery to inform decision-making on the ground.
Matt Ocko of DCVC said that major industries and governments are starved for timely satellite data, and even more so for data with the unique signal and intelligence advantage Capella’s synthetic aperture radar tech can provide. Commodity trading, urban development, critical infrastructure, shipping and security: businesses across the board realize that milliseconds matter in today’s global economy, and a steady stream of reliable, easily accessible Earth information just does not exist. Capella is solving that problem for a broad range of customers, from typical players like the Department of Defense, and also for blue-chip companies and NGOs that need to understand risks to our collective future.
Nabeel Hyatt of Spark Capital added that the company is thrilled to partner with Capella on their mission to offer better visibility into more corners of the world than any other satellite system and ultimately save time, money, and lives. The Capella Constellation is going to transform an industry reliant on billion-dollar government satellites to networks of satellites the size of backpacks with unique sensor capabilities not seen before.”