Biz Briefs – Pixxel Raises $36 Million, Pentagon Pays for Starlink Service in Ukraine (Image Credit: Parabolic Arc)
Welcome to Biz Briefs! In today’s edition, Pixxel and Satellite Vu raise funds, the Pentagon will pay for SpaceX Starlink service in Ukraine, Viasat completes its acquisition of Inmarsat, Sierra Space powers up Dream Chaser, and much more.
New investor Google led a $36 million Series B funding round for Indian startup Pixxel, which is developing a constellation of hyperspectral Earth-imaging satellites. Existing investors Radical Ventures, Lightspeed, Blume Ventures, growx, Sparta, and Athera participated in the round. The new funds will advance Pixxel’s plan to launch six satellites in 2024 and 18 satellites in 2025. It will also help further the development of the company’s AI-powered Aurora analytics platform.
Satellite Vu raised £12.7m (US $15.8 million) in a Series A2 round, bringing total investment in the Earth observation company. Molten Ventures led the round with participation from existing investors Seraphim Space Investment Trust PLC, A/O Proptech, Lockheed Martin, Ridgeline Ventures, Earth Sciences Foundation, and Stellar Ventures.
L3 Harris has won a $275 million contract from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to support the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) ground system. This award is a follow-on to L3Harris’ contracts with NOAA for building and sustaining the GOES-R core ground and antenna systems. GOES-R system is the nation’s most advanced fleet of geostationary weather satellites.
L3Harris has won a $80.8 million contract under the US Air Force Research Laboratory’s Defense Experimentation Using Commercial Space Internet program to develop and test satellite communications systems capable of operating with multiple commercial space Internet constellations operating in low, medium, and geostationary Earth orbits. Testing will be conducted in the Arctic, on mobile ground vehicles, and aboard multiple aircraft.
Reuters reports that the U.S. Department of Defense is paying for Starlink broadband service in war-torn Ukraine under a contract with SpaceX. Ukraine has used Starlink to fight off the Russian invasion of the country that began in February 2022. The terms of the contract were not released.
Thales Alenia Space of Italy, Thales Six GTS of France, and Airbus Defence and Space of Germany have signed contracts with the European Space Agency (ESA) to commence system engineering support for the next generation of Europe’s Galileo navigation satellite system.
BlackSky announced on June 1 that it won a multi-million dollar renewal contract to provide advanced subscription-based tactical imagery and analytics services to an international Ministry of Defense customer. BlackSky’s advanced Spectra AI tasking and analytics platform and high-resolution satellite constellation deliver on-demand, high-frequency imagery, monitoring, and analytics to customers within 90 minutes. The company did not disclose the amount of the contract or identify the customer.
Maritime cleantech company Navidium has selected Spire Global to provide real-time automatic identification system vessel-tracking data. Navidium will integrate the data into its Voyage Optimization & Environmental Compliance products to help users track vessel position along a route, reoptimize routes based on various conditions and automatically record environmental compliance data, such as Carbon Intensity Indicator.
The Korea Aerospace Research Institute has signed a contract with Arianespace to launch its Kompsat-6 Earth observation satellite on a Vega C rocket as early as December 2024. The radar imaging satellite had previously been booked for a launch on a Russian Angara booster. The award comes on the heels of ClearSpace signing a contract with Arianespace to launch a debris deorbit mission on Vega C rocket in the second half 2026.
Northrop Grumman has won a $45.5 million contract from the US Space Systems Command to launch the Electro-Optical Infrared (EO/IR) Weather System (EWS) satellite aboard a Minotaur IV rocket in May 2025. The EWS prototype will prove out new EO/IR sensor technology to provide operational quality data to the DoD weather community and inform the development of a more cost-effective and proliferated operational architecture.
Orbit Fab has selected Impulse Space’s Mira orbital service vehicle to serve as a hosting platform for a hydrazine refueling demonstration mission in geostationary orbit in 2025. The US Space Force’s Tetra-5 spacecraft will be refueled with up to 50 kg of hydrazine.
Telesat has awarded a contract to Space Flight Laboratory of Toronto to manufacture the LEO 3 demonstration satellite. LEO 3 will operate as part of Telesat’s Lightspeed communications constellation. It will launch aboard a Rocket Lab Electron booster from New Zealand.
Canadian startup Space Engine Systems has signed a lease to test its hypersonic propulsion systems Spaceport Cornwall in the United Kingdom.
NASA is seeking industry proposals for a next-generation Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) that will allow Artemis astronauts to explore the moon later this decade. The LTV will function like a cross between an Apollo-style lunar rover and a Mars-style uncrewed rover.
Mergers & Acquisitions
Viasat has completed its $7.3 billion acquisition of UK-based Inmarsat after clearing regulatory hurdles.
“The combined company enhances our scale and scope to continue to drive growth in the increasingly dynamic and competitive satellite communications industry,” Viasat said in a press release. “The company’s assets, once fully integrated, are expected to increase the pace and scope of innovation in the global satellite connectivity sector, offering new and improved capabilities to customers that will address the ever-increasing speed, flexibility, reliability, coverage and security they demand.”
International Space Station
Axiom Space’s second commercial mission to the International Space Station (ISS) concluded when a SpaceX Crew Dragon splashed down off the coast of Florida on Tuesday. Ax-2 mission Commander Peggy Whitson returned with American businessman John Shoffner, Saudi researcher Rayyanah Barnawi, and Saudi fighter pilot Ali al-Qarni. Barnawi was the first Saudi woman to go to space.
Sierra Space has successfully powered up its reusable Dream Chaser spaceplane in a major step toward its first cargo mission to the space station in December.
Thales Alenia Space is leading a consortium for the Scalable COntroller for Power Sources (SCOPS) project designed to reduce the European aerospace industry’s dependence on foreign suppliers of mixed-signal application-specific integrated circuits, the electronic chips that are the “brains” of satellites. SCOPS is part of the European Commission’s Horizon Europe Research and Innovation program.
Nova Scotia-based Maritime Launch Services has appointed Jeffrey Manber to its team of strategic advisers. Manber serves as president of Voyager Space’s International and Space Stations, where he is leading the development of the company’s Starlab private space station. He served as CEO of Nanoracks from 2009 to 2021.
Startup True Anomaly has announced the following appointments:
- Katie Wall as Director of Government Affairs. Based in DC, she joins from Virgin Orbit, and has 15 years of experience in state and federal government as well as in the commercial space industry.
- Valerie Vasquez as Director of Strategic Business Development. Based in DC, she joins from SandboxAQ, and brings nearly 20 years of experience building teams and partnerships across the U.S. government, the defense industry, and partner nations.
- Kristin Quinn Cody as Director of Communications. She also joins from Sanbox AQ, and brings 15 years of experience communicating the role of complex technologies at the intersection of innovation and national security.
Orbex has named Martin Coates as its new CEO following the recent departure of Chris Larmour.
The US State Department has released its first-ever Strategic Framework for Space Diplomacy, an initiative to advance American global space leadership. The goal is to expand international cooperation on mutually beneficial activities, including the Artemis Accords, and gain commitments to oppose anti-satellite missile tests.
Spain has become the 25th nation to sign the Artemis Accords, a US initiative that sets a series of guidelines for the exploration and development of space.