LeoLabs secures additional funding to assist the US in monitoring space debris and hostile satellite launches.

The rapid increase in the number of objects in space over the past three decades has significantly congested the Earth’s orbit. This surge is primarily due to commercial companies uncovering new business opportunities and cost-effective ways to reach space. The rising number of objects in space raises concerns for commercial satellite operators, who fear collision with other objects. The U.S. Space Force, on the other hand, is focused on ensuring American defense and its allies are aware of the objects’ positions in space, their activities, and their origin.

Historically, the monitoring and characterization of objects in space have been the responsibility of the Department of Defense. However, numerous companies are now recognizing the commercial potential of delivering vital intelligence on objects in orbit. One such company is LeoLabs, a nine-year-old startup that has constructed a 10-site radar network spanning both hemispheres. This network collects data on over 20,000 objects in low Earth orbit, offering services ranging from accurate tracking to real-time collision risk alerts for satellites.

The company began 2022 on a strong note, securing a new contract from NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce. This contract will contribute to the agency’s Traffic Coordination System for Space initiative. Expanding on this progress, LeoLabs revealed that it has closed a $29 million extension to its $65 million Series B funding round, which was completed in the summer of 2021.

The new capital will be used to finance the growth of LeoLabs’ AI technology, which is fundamental to the company’s operations. The insights derived from this technology are integrated into command operations by defense customers and used by commercial operators for mission planning and spaceflight safety analysis. The company has already applied AI models for real-time detection of on-orbit maneuvers, object categorization, characterization of ‘unknown’ objects, and analysis of patterns-of-life on recently launched objects.

The additional investment will also aid in the development of novel radar technologies capable of covering even smaller pieces of orbital debris and tracking “non-cooperative” launch activities in very low Earth orbit. This aspect is of particular interest to the U.S. Space Force, as it refers to launches that are not coordinated with the U.S. or its allies, such as those conducted by China, which typically keeps its space activity confidential.

The investment round was led by GP Bullhound and was oversubscribed, according to LeoLabs. New investors included 1941 and Dolby Family Ventures, with continued support from existing investors such as Insight Partners, Velvet Sea Ventures, Space Capital, and the AngelList syndicate led by Dylan Taylor.

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