Last year was a record year for the space industry with the Seraphim Space Index showing continued momentum from global venture investors who increased their investment in the sector by 21%. Total VC investment soared to $4.1bn during the year up from $3.25bn (2018) and $2.5bn (2017). The appetite for investment centred on the Launch and Constellation subcategories accounting for 75% of total investment.
The top 5 companies funded which, accounted for $1bn in both 2018 and 2017 were marginally ahead at $1.1bn in 2019, after excluding $1.25bn invested into a single company an outlier. The Index reported that 166 companies were venture financed during 2019, this is somewhat lower than the 183 companies in 2018 but ahead of the 130 companies funded in 2017.
Seven year old start-up One Web closed a huge $1.25bn round to build a worldwide internet delivered from space. SpaceX, raised a further $536m and also commenced the start of its own broadband constellation launching a record 120 satellites. The competition for delivering ubiquitous connectivity further ignited with tech giants Amazon and Apple both joining the space race planning their own broadband constellations.
Other notable investments in the Constellation (Data) category included $100m investment in Japanese start-up Synspective to develop their radar network and $70m in Hawkeye360 to develop their Radio Frequency mapping platform. 2019 marked the first year that the Constellation (Data) category eclipsed the Launch category with investment of $1.86bn versus $1.2bn respectively. One highlight in the launch category included the $140m into the 3D rocket printing company Relativity Space.
Elsewhere in the SpaceTech sector the other categories collectively saw total investment dip in aggregate by 7% from 2018 investment levels albeit still 14% ahead of 2017 figures.
As in previous years it was the U.S. companies which received the majority of funding accounting for 63% of 2019 investment, after excluding the outliers of SpaceX and OneWeb. Asian companies accounted for 18% global share of investment with Europeans at 13%.
The index, which identifies average investment round sizes for each sub-sector, revealed that US companies continued to access materially larger rounds increasingly across Seed (+27%), Series A (+41%), Series B (+41%) and Series C (+43%). The Series A figures were calculated after excluding two Asian transactions that were outliers $141m Qianxun Spatial Intelligence (China) and $100m Synspective (Japan).
Looking at overall investment by stage Seed stage investments grew by 9% whilst A series rounds were flat at $700m. The growth rounds of B and C collectively saw a slight dip of 15% to $1.1bn whilst D+ series increased by 15% even after excluding One Web as an outlier.
We segment the Space Tech ecosystem into the following 8 categories:
Build – Building and selling satellites and drones. We look at both the hardware (sub-systems, complete platforms and novel sensors) and software (i.e. mission control, cybersecurity). New and novel materials that can make platforms lighter, cheaper and more efficient. Companies like Swissto12, CesiumAstro and Orbion Space Technology led the sector in 2019.
Launch – Building and launching rockets, offering launch aggregation and services. We also consider autonomous flight such as drone delivery. Companies like Relativity, Landspace and Isar Aerospace led the sector in 2019.
Data – Satellite constellations, high altitude pseudo satellite (HAPS) platforms and drones collecting and communicating proprietary data, across the three main applications of earth observation, communications and navigation. Companies like Synspective, HawkEye 360 and Spire Global led the sector in 2019.
Downlink – Technologies facilitating the transmission of data from space and aerial platforms back down to earth. This includes phased-array antennas, laser communications, inter-satellite data relay systems, quantum security and ground stations. Companies like Rinfon, Akash Systems and Isotropic Systems led the sector in 2019.
Analyse – Changing low level processed data into valuable insights, offering a subscription service to enterprise customers. Includes the analysis of data from space and aerial platforms using machine learning techniques. Companies such as Orbital Insight, Descartes Labs and Ursa Space Systems lead the sector in 2019.
Product – Packaging of different data streams (fusing space and terrestrial sources), tailored to specific use cases in discrete verticals. This includes data platforms such as space and drone traffic management, mapping platforms and precision location & tracking. Companies like Swissto12, CesiumAstro and Orbion Space Technology led the sector in 2019.
Beyond Earth – Technologies and infrastructure to enable in-space services for satellites and launchers, furthering space exploration efforts and research in microgravity environments. Companies like Astroscale, Momentus and Axiom Space led the sector in 2019.