Finnish startup ICEYE, which has been building out and operating a constellation of Synthetic-Aperture Radar (SAR) small satellites, has raised an $87 million Series C round of financing. This round of funding was led by existing investor True Ventures, and includes participation by OTB Ventures; it brings the total funding for ICEYE to $152 million since its founding in 2014.
ICEYE has already launched a total of five SAR satellites, and will be launching an additional four later this year, with a plan to add eight more throughout 2021. Its SAR satellites were the first-ever small satellites with SAR imaging capabilities, and it designed and built the spacecraft in-house. SAR imaging is innovative because it uses relatively small actual physical antennas, combined with fast motion across a targeted imaging area, to create a much larger synthetic aperture than the physical aperture of the radar antenna itself — which in turn means it’s capable of producing very high-resolution, two and three-dimensional images of areas and objects.
ICEYE has been able to rack up a number of achievements, including record-setting 0.25 meter resolution for a small SAR satellite, and record turnaround time in terms of capture data delivery, reaching only five minutes from when data begins its downlink connection to ground stations, to actually having processed images available for customers to use on their own systems.
The purpose of this funding is to continue and speed up the growth of the ICEYE satellite constellation, as well as provide round-the-clock customer service operations across the world. ICEYE also hopes to set up U.S.-based manufacturing operations for future spacecraft.
SAR, along with other types of Earth imaging, has actually grown in demand during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis — especially when provided by companies focused on delivering them via lower cost, small satellite operations. That’s in part due to their ability to provide services that supplement inspection and monitoring work that would’ve been done previously in person, or handled via expensive operations, including aircraft observation or tasked geosynchronous satellites.