Airbus venture arm backing LeoLabs to build the ‘Google Maps’ of satellites

Airbus venture arm backing LeoLabs to build the ‘Google Maps’ of satellites 2

An animation of the history of space debris around the Earth. Source: AGI

“It’s our mission to be a global platform,” says LeoLabs vice president of business development Alan DeClerck. “The real currency of what we’re able to do with the radar is frequency of operations.”

LeoLabs sees three potential customer groups in the space industry: Satellite companies (which, shortly after a launch, want to know where a satellite is and whether it is healthy), public agencies (especially on the licensing and regulatory side of the public sector which are trying to avoid increase risk to assets in space) and insurers (which underwrite launches and satellite operations in space).

“We specifically got into the business now because now is when the wave of developments are happening,” Ceperley said. “15,000 new satellites are being slated to go into low Earth orbit over the next three to five years.”

With thousands of satellites set to launch, LeoLabs sees the insurance business as a potential boon – especially given the existing risks.

“If you have a big data set then we use that as an example of what developing future applications for space is going to look like,” DeClerck said. “They can write applications that will be worth millions and millions of dollars to the insurance industry.”

Airbus Ventures had contributed to the $4 million LeoLabs raised in the last two years but in this latest round stepped up as co-lead with WERU, a Japanese firm. Etaix explained that Airbus Ventures is not structured “like other aerospace VC funds,” saying that the firm “is quite independent from Airbus.”

“We can connect with Airbus but we don’t really force the marriage with Airbus,” Etaix said.

Etaix added that LeoLabs is already working with the broader Airbus, due to the “number of businesses” that could benefit from this technology, he said.

“Primarily OneWeb, because OneWeb is a project Airbus is heavily involved with because they need the data,” Etaix said. OneWeb is one of several companies building a next-generation constellation of hundreds of satellites for high speed internet.

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