Japanese startup Axelspace has been developing small and inexpensive satellites weighing some 60 kilograms. The company announced today that it has fundraised about 1.8 billion yen ($15 million) in a series A round. This round was led by Global Brain with participation from Energy & Environment Investment, SMBC Venture Capital, SBI Investment, Japan Science and Technology Agency, SKY Perfect JSAT (TSE:9412), Seibu Shinkin Capital, and Mitsu & Co. Axelspace will use the funds to launch three small earth observation satellites and start a remote sensing business in 2017. The company will collaborate with SKY Perfect JSAT to operate satellites, and with Mitsui & Co. to develop satellite image businesses.
Axelspace was spun off from the University of Tokyo and incorporated as a company in 2008. The company has launched satellites outsourced from Japanese weather company Weathernews (TSE:4825). They will launch three satellites in 2017, and then 10 satellites every year from 2018 to achieve a remote sensing network of 50 satellites circling the globe. Leveraging these low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites, Axelspace plans to collect weather and terrain data to sell to governmental organizations and private businesses.
Compared to geostationary satellites at 36,000 kilometers above the equator, LEO satellites can capture detailed images and data because of their closer distance to the ground. However, these satellites have a downside in that operators cannot always view the area they want at all times due to the orbital motion. Operating a multitude of satellites can solve the problem, but it will cost more because more satellites will be needed. With a system of small and inexpensive satellites, Axelspace could revolutionize the remote sensing industry.
Edited by Kurt Hanson