Yesterday, asteroid mining startup Planetary Resources announced that it had raised $21 million in a Series A funding round. The company also announced that it’s going to be offering a new Earth observation service, which the new funding will be used to develop.
The investment round was led by Bryan Johnson of the OS Fund, but also includes, among others, Tencent, the Space Angels Network, and Google cofounder Larry Page.
The bulk of the $21 million in capital will be used to develop the company’s Ceres system, a constellation of 10 of its Arkyd satellites equipped with infrared and hyperspectral imaging capabilities. These sensors will enable the company to identify intelligence for a number of industries, including agriculture, oil, and more. The company will be testing out the technology with the upcoming launch of its Arkyd 6 satellite on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
But why is a company that’s ostensibly trying to mine asteroids worrying about Earth observation?
“It seems that Planetary Resources is playing a long-game for its mission to mine asteroids,” Bill Ostrove, an analyst at Forecast International told me. “It’s a plan similar to SpaceX, where they develop technologies and skills in low Earth orbit with the ultimate goal of building a business in deep space.”
The other reason to start this business? Revenue. Asteroid mining is still years – if not decades – away. But here and now, Earth observation has started to become a booming business, and a number of startups with different specialties have – ahem – launched in the past few years. By entering this market, Planetary Resources is able to build the capital they need for their long-term goal of asteroid mining. And their observation has some advantages over their competitors. The first being just the money.
“The fact that they raised over $20 million in Series A puts them at a distinct advantage compared to some companies that have not been able to raise that much,” Ostrove told me. “Also, their use of infrared and hyperspectral could be helpful. Companies that offer something that differentiates themselves from their competitors will have a leg up.”