SAN FRANCISCO – French startup Grasp SAS has acquired Baltimore, Maryland-based AirPhoton to create Grasp Global, a U.S. Earth-observation company with plans for a cubesat constellation.
Grasp, which stands for Generalized Retrieval of Atmosphere and Surface Properties, was founded in 2015 to provide software primarily to the European Space Agency and Eumetsat, the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites.
AirPhoton, founded in 2012 by scientists who met at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, specializes in instruments to measure particulates and satellite payloads.
Earlier this year, Grasp raised 2 million euros ($1.96 million) in a funding round, backed by Austria-based Findus Ventures and Cloudflight, a German IT services firm. With the money, Grasp acquired AirPhoton in August and began offering Earth observation hardware and software.
“We have a lot of complementarity because we succeeded with software and AirPhoton succeeded in hardware,” said Oleg Dubovik, Grasp Global co-founder and research director at the the French National Center for Scientific Research Atmospheric Optics Laboratory.
Grasp Global now has access to the U.S. market and is eligible to compete for NASA or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration contracts. Similarly, the company can sell hardware developed by AirPhoton in Europe.
To demonstrate its capabilities, Grasp Global plans to establish an Earth-observation constellation to provide frequent observations of atmospheric aerosols and surface properties.
“We plan to develop our first constellation of multi-angle polarimeters, called GAPMAP, to retrieve advanced atmosphere composition products (atmospheric aerosols) for air quality applications of interest to polluting industries and atmospheric correction products of interest to many other satellite constellations,” David Fuertes, Grasp Global co-founder and CEO, said by email.
Dubovik added, “Government agencies have a number of projects to launch similar instruments. We believe our data will be of good quality and much cheaper.”
With the recent investment, Grasp Global has funding to launch its first instrument. The French space agency CNES is contributing approximately 1 million euros to support the launch of Grasp Global’s second mission on a U-Space cubesat. U-Space is a French startup offering turnkey spaceflight services.