NASA’s embrace of private spaceflight has paved the way for private sector investments, and funding to “new space” companies has rocketed as a result.
With rocket and satellite development costs falling, a regulatory embrace of private spaceflight (“new space”), and better remote sensing and data analytics capabilities, funding to space tech companies has rocketed from almost nothing in 2012, to approximately $4B in combined funding over the past two years. Space tech includes startups involved in the construction and launch of satellites or rocketry into outer space, as well as ancillary companies working to aggregate and analyze satellite data.
Deals to the sector have risen more than 400% between 2012-2015. In 2016, funding fell back to Earth a bit, with 40 deals across $1.5B in funding, down from 46 and $2.3B in 2015.
We used the CB Insights database to identify 57 space tech startups and organized them into three categories and eight subcategories, based on each company’s primary product, line of business, and/or current focus.
Please note that companies often straddle multiple categories, especially in a sector as nascent as space tech.
Please click on the map to enlarge. The map is not meant to be exhaustive of companies in the space.
Exploration: Companies in this category are — literally and figuratively — aiming for the moon, and beyond.
- Natural Resources: Asteroids and other planets contain valuable natural resources. Planetary Resources has received nearly $50M in assorted funding to develop robotic space exploration aimed at the eventual mining of asteroids.
- Interplanetary: Google has promised its $30M Lunar XPRIZE to the first team to land a rover on the moon. Among those companies trying to land on the moon, Moon Express has received nearly $50M in assorted funding to build its natural resources- and data-collecting lunar robot, and has contracted with Rocket Labs as its launch provider. However, Rocket Labs lags behind its competition, having not yet launched a test rocket.
- Consumer Tourism: Companies in this subcategory are making space tourism an immediate priority, focusing on space for the rest of us (who can pay for the pleasure). SpaceVR plans to launch micro-satellites into orbit to allow consumers to experience space via virtual reality.
Orbit: The majority of satellites and spacecraft orbiting Earth fall into two “layers” of space: Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geostationary Orbit (GEO).
- Research & Development: Companies in this subcategory are conducting scientific experiments in space, manufacturing items in-orbit, or working to better understand humanity’s effect on space — think space debris. NanoRacks helps researchers study the effects of microgravity and space radiation on test items.
- Satellite Constellation Operation: With production costs falling steeply for micro-satellites, investors and founders are looking to launch satellite constellations that will be able to provide communications infrastructure and remote sensing data, among other use-cases. OneWeb is launching a satellite constellation to provide global mobile and internet connectivity, and Softbank is pushing for a merger between the company and Intelsat, another major satellite operator.
Launch & Downstream: A number of space tech companies are still in the rocket and launch testing phase, while other space tech companies offer satellite coordination services and/ or data analysis with feet firmly planted on the ground — or, downstream.
- Communications & Tracking: Companies in this subcategory work to coordinate and track orbiting spacecraft, primarily satellites. A select few companies are combining IoT with space tech, and developing networks that will communicate via satellite. Kymeta is one such company, and has raised upwards of $200M to bring satellite connectivity to vehicles on Earth.
- Data Analytics: Satellites generate tremendous amounts of data, and companies in this subcategory try to make sense of it all. It should be noted that these companies are typically industry generalists, with a focus on satellite data aggregation and analysis as opposed to specific industry use-cases. Orbital Insight analyzes satellite data to predict economic and environmental trends, among other use cases, and has raised nearly $30M in total funding.
- Spacecraft Design & Launch Providers: Spacecraft designers are involved in the design, engineering, and manufacturing of rockets and satellites. Launch providers deliver payloads, such as micro-satellites, to outer space for clients. The two are grouped together because spacecraft designers like SpaceX or Blue Origin hope to use innovative and reusable rocket technology to deliver client payloads.
See the full company list below:
|Deep Space Industries||Exploration||Natural Resources|
|Planetary Resources||Exploration||Natural Resources|
|Cohu Experience||Exploration||Consumer Tourism|
|Analytical Space||Launch & Downstream||Communications & Asset Tracking|
|Audacy Corp||Launch & Downstream||Communications & Asset Tracking|
|Goonhilly Earth Station||Launch & Downstream||Communications & Asset Tracking|
|Kymeta||Launch & Downstream||Communications & Asset Tracking|
|Leaf Space||Launch & Downstream||Communications & Asset Tracking|
|RBC Signals||Launch & Downstream||Communications & Asset Tracking|
|Omnispace||Launch & Downstream||Communications & Asset Tracking|
|LeoLabs||Launch & Downstream||Communications & Asset Tracking|
|Descartes Labs||Launch & Downstream||Data Analytics|
|OmniEarth||Launch & Downstream||Data Analytics|
|Orbital Insight||Launch & Downstream||Data Analytics|
|Rezatec||Launch & Downstream||Data Analytics|
|Skywatch||Launch & Downstream||Data Analytics|
|SpaceKnow||Launch & Downstream||Data Analytics|
|Rocket Lab||Launch & Downstream||Launch Providers|
|Spaceflight Industries||Launch & Downstream||Launch Providers|
|Vector Space Systems||Launch & Downstream||Launch Providers|
|World View||Launch & Downstream||Spacecraft Design|
|SpaceX||Launch & Downstream||Spacecraft Design|
|PLD Space||Launch & Downstream||Spacecraft Design|
|Accion Systems||Launch & Downstream||Spacecraft Design|
|Blue Origin||Launch & Downstream||Spacecraft Design|
|D-Orbit||Launch & Downstream||Spacecraft Design|
|Isotropic Systems||Launch & Downstream||Spacecraft Design|
|KubOS||Launch & Downstream||Spacecraft Design|
|Masten Space Systems||Launch & Downstream||Spacecraft Design|
|Phase Four||Launch & Downstream||Spacecraft Design|
|Relativity Space||Launch & Downstream||Spacecraft Design|
|Xcor Aerospace||Launch & Downstream||Spacecraft Design|
|Astroscale||Launch & Downstream||Spacecraft Design|
|Made In Space||Orbit||Research & Development|
|NanoRacks||Orbit||Research & Development|
|CubeRider||Orbit||Research & Development|
|Space Tango||Orbit||Research & Development|
|SpacePharma||Orbit||Research & Development|
|Iceye||Orbit||Satellite Constellation Operation|
|Axelspace||Orbit||Satellite Constellation Operation|
|Astro Digital||Orbit||Satellite Constellation Operation|
|GeoOptics||Orbit||Satellite Constellation Operation|
|Hera Systems||Orbit||Satellite Constellation Operation|
|Kacific Broadband Satellites||Orbit||Satellite Constellation Operation|
|Kepler Communications||Orbit||Satellite Constellation Operation|
|Planet Labs||Orbit||Satellite Constellation Operation|
|PlanetIQ||Orbit||Satellite Constellation Operation|
|Satellogic||Orbit||Satellite Constellation Operation|
|SpaceBelt||Orbit||Satellite Constellation Operation|
|Spire||Orbit||Satellite Constellation Operation|
|Fleet Space Technologies||Orbit||Satellite Constellation Operation|
|Magnitude Space||Orbit||Satellite Constellation Operation|
|OneWeb||Orbit||Satellite Constellation Operation|
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