Updated Dec. 8 at 12:29 a.m. Eastern.
WASHINGTON — Japanese startup Axelspace secured $22.8 million from investors to fund a constellation of specialized remote-sensing satellites, the company said Dec. 7.
Tokyo-based Axelspace raised the Series B funds from 31VENTURES – Global Brain – Growth I Joint Venture, with participation from the Innovation Network Corp. of Japan, SBI Investment Co., Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company, and the University of Tokyo’s Innovation Platform.
In an interview, Axelspace Chief Business Development Officer Yasunori Yamazaki, said the funding will enable the company of 65 people to continue building a constellation called AxelGlobe, though the company hasn’t decided on a final size for the constellation.
“Our focus is to build a constellation that will be able to cover the entire globe on a daily basis,” he said. “At the moment we are not sure how many satellites it will require to do that. We are thinking it will be something between 10 and 20, but we are not sure. We will be more concrete in terms of our plans once we launch and start operating.”
Axelspace’s first AxelGlobe satellite is scheduled to launch Dec. 27 from Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome on a Soyuz-2 rocket through smallsat launch aggregator Glavkosmos.
Yamazaki said Axelspace’s next two satellites will launch in late 2019 or early 2020.
Axelspace has raised roughly $40 million to date, Yamazaki said, and is seeking to differentiate itself by equipping its satellites with cameras that image in red, blue and green, near-infrared and red-edge wavelengths.
Using red-edge imagery in particular will enable the company to produce valuable data measurements of vegetation from space, he said.
Axelspace is not alone in offering red-edge imagery. DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 and Planet’s five RapidEye satellites also have this feature, but at different resolutions (DigitalGlobe at 1.84 meters and Planet at 5 meters).
Yamazaki said Axelspace sees itself as unchallenged for red-edge imagery at 2.5-meter resolution.
Axelspace satellites will each have a mass of 100 kilograms to support cameras large enough to image in all five spectral bands, he said.
Yamazaki said Axelspace is planning to expand beyond Japan in the future, though the company hasn’t decided where. Axelspace is considering the United States, as well as locations in Asia and Europe, he said.