Spaceflight Industries, which helps the U.S. government, Planet Labs and other customers launch small satellites on larger space transportation vehicles, has snagged $19.2 million in financing, according to a SEC filing. Backers of the company — which is led by former GotVoice and Starwave executive Curt Blake and Andrews Space founder Jason Andrews — include Chugach Alaska Corp. and RRE Ventures. Paul Allen’s Vulcan Ventures also participated, along with Razor’s Edge Ventures. Total funding now stands at $27.5 million.
In some ways, Spaceflight piggybacks satellites on existing launch vehicles developed by SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, Roscosmos and Virgin Galactic, the equivalent of a “ride-share” program, according to Andrews.
This ride share, however, is transporting satellites rather than people. And it takes the small satellites to altitudes ranging from 300 kilometers to 60,000 kilometers above Earth. The cost of launching the satellites ranges from $295,000 to tens of millions of dollars.
Andrews describes Spaceflight Industries as a “space logistics company,” arranging the rides for the satellites and doing the equivalent of stashing them in “overhead bins” and “nooks and crannies” on spacecraft.
“We don’t build rockets,” explained Andrews. “What we do is take excess capacity on existing rockets and we package small payloads, and launch them to space.”
To date, the company has helped orbit 76 satellites from the larger vehicles, starting from its initial launch in April 2013. It has another 10 launches planned this year, according to the schedule posted on the company’s Web site. He said the company is sitting on a significant backlog of satellites that it plans to launch in the coming years.
The company also is working to develop its SHERPA In-Space Tug, inking a deal last summer with the German Aerospace Center for a “greenhouse in space” mission set for 2017.
Andrews declined to say how they plan to use the new funds, or if the company plans to raise more cash. He said that Spaceflight and Andrews Space employ fewer than 100 employees, with Spaceflight operating from a headquarters near the Museum of Flight in Seattle. It plans to more than double the size of its staff this year.
Spaceflight Industries includes Spaceflight Systems — formerly Andrews Space — Spaceflight Services and Spaceflight Networks.
“We have a lot of exciting stuff in the works,” said Andrews. “And this investment is validation about our plans and approach and our growth opportunities.”
Added Charles Beames, president of Vulcan Aerospace, in a statement:
“We see a tremendous opportunity in the exploration and commercialization of space, especially within the smallsat industry,” Beames said. “Spaceflight is forging a new generation of integrated space services to enable easier, cost-effective access to the benefits and possibilities of space.”