Space startup bags $50M to fight climate change with satellites

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Space startup Open Cosmos will accelerate its mission to protect our planet after raising $50mn in a new funding round.

The UK-based company uses satellites to tackle environmental issues. By tapping AI, sensors, and Earth Observation (EO) imagery, the probes provide unique insights into climate change.

These findings can shine new light on global temperatures, greenhouse gases, polar ice caps, sea level changes, natural disasters, and deforestation. Scientists can then use the data in damage mitigation programmes.

Rafel Jordá Siquier, Open Cosmos’ CEO and founder, told TNW that sustainability is at the core of the company.

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“I’ve always believed that space data holds the key to building a more resilient and sustainable world enabling us to better understand, predict and react to different challenges and make informed decisions,” he said.

“These detailed global views, combined with advanced data visualisation tools, provide organisations all around the world with the insights they need to make changes that, in time, will better protect our planet.” 

A photo of Rafel Jorda Siquier, founder and CEO of Open Cosmos
Rafel Jorda Siquier, Open Cosmos founder and CEO. Credit: Open Cosmos

Among the current crop of Open Cosmos satellites is Menut, which launched in January aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The nanosatellite was built to monitor deforestation, wildfire impact, flooding, and coastal erosion.

If all goes to plan, Menut will soon have several new colleagues in space. By March 2024, Open Cosmos plans to launch the following five satellites:

  • PLATERO, which will monitor the environmental impact of farming in Andalusia.

  • IOD6, which will use hyperspectral imagery to survey Atlantic coastal and maritime areas.
  • MANTIS, which will produce high-resolution images of logistics, energy infrastructure, and natural resources.

  • ALISIO1, which will make environmental observations in the Canary Islands for applications including agriculture and disaster management.
  • PHISAT2, a cubesat with six onboard AI applications that will process data in orbit.

To maximise the benefits, the satellites can connect to the OpenConstellation, which organisations use to share and access space data.

A model of the Menut satellite
Menut, which is Catalan for “small” will orbit around 538km from the Earth at a speed of about 8 km/s. Credit: Open Cosmos

OpenConstellation is part of an end-to-end service, which covers the design, build, and operation of satellites. According to Open Cosmos, the model democratises access to space by cutting costs and simplifying processes.

“The space sector has traditionally been seen as quite an exclusive one,” Jordá said. “It’s expensive to build and design satellites, costly to access and use them, and you also need a high-level science and tech understanding to leverage the tools.

“This is why ensuring access to space data is so important and why the space sector should prioritise this because this bridges the gap between upstream and downstream, as this is where the most growth will come from.”

It’s a sales pitch that’s proven alluring to impact investors.  Three of them led the new €50mn Series B funding round: the Environmental Technologies FundTrill Impact, and the A&G Energy Transition Tech Fund.

Research suggests that they could also reap financial benefits. Last year, analysts predicted that the EO satellite market would be worth $11.3 billion by 2031.

To maximise the potential, Jordá wants stronger backing from the public sector.

“Particularly in the UK, we need government-funded projects to allow us to continue to fuel this rich innovation we’re seeing and support companies to go from concept to commercialisation,” he said.