As you can probably imagine, launching satellites is a complicated business. To get into the game, companies must often go to the biggest players, like NASA. It puts the opportunity for small companies to participate in the benefits of satellite usage completely out of reach. Until recently. Mini or nano-satellites are proliferating, and so are the startups producing them. But even in this newer scenario, there are many moving parts, from manufacturing to launching, to the systems that might capture the data you want.
But an innovative startup thinks it has the solution: create a turnkey, end-to-end system that is a one-stop-shop. That company is the U.K.’s Open Cosmos.
It’s now raised $7 million in a Series A funding round as part of its mission to make satellites more affordable and more accessible to everyone. The round was led by BGF Ventures, with participation from LocalGlobe, Entrepreneur First, TransferWise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus and Microsoft’s former head of corporate strategy, Charlie Songhurst.
Founded by aerospace engineer Rafael Jordà Siquier (pictured), the company plans to democratize satellites in the same way that computers became easier to use in the 1980s. It plans to manufacture 30 satellites a year and provide a full, end-to-end service.
He said: “The space industry is ripe for the same disruption. We believe that our end-to-end service based on smaller, more affordable, more accessible satellites, will enable new applications to emerge.”
Currently, to put a satellite into space you must have millions in funding, wait for years and assemble many providers. But Open Cosmos is offering entire missions that start from £500,000 ($700,000) and can be delivered in less than a year. Once satellites are in orbit, Open Cosmos takes full control of them. Data collected by the satellite will be sent to the customer.
The company’s satellites, which range from 4kg to 30kg, follow a standardized modular design that makes it easy to integrate sensors; the idea being that space agencies and large or small companies can test new technologies, carry out research or provide services to their own customers.
It’s now signed a $2 million “Pioneer” contract with the European Space Agency and will be providing an entire mission (satellite, launch procurement and operations) to demonstrate in orbit an innovative telecommunications transceiver.
Wendy Tan White, BGF Ventures advisor, said: “Rafael is an exceptional entrepreneur. We are excited and confident that Raf and his team are going to revolutionize the satellite industry in the coming years and we look forward to seeing what kind of applications entrepreneurs can build when they have relatively cheap access to satellite data and an easily accessible operations stack.”
Located in Oxford, England, the company has a team of 22, which it now intends to scale up.