In the world of spaceflight, weight is always a topic of discussion. Whether it’s finding a way to make a rocket lighter or ways to boost efficiency in order to carry less fuel, engineers are always trying to make things smaller. That’s because launching a single pound costs thousands of dollars—leading to multi-million-dollar launch day contracts.
A startup called Astranis understands this well. It wants to make launching satellites more affordable by making them smaller. The company recently completed a $250 million Series C round to aid the development of its MicroGEO satellites.
Most people imagine satellites as relatively small bundles of tech floating around in orbit. That couldn’t be further from the truth. A typical satellite weighs thousands of pounds. Some of the smallest satellites can fit in the palm of your hand while the largest are the size of the International Space Station (ISS).
That being said, geostationary communications satellites are among the largest in orbit. They are used to provide connectivity to people in specific parts of the world. Astranis’ MicroGEO units flip the narrative by being much smaller than traditional geostationary satellites without sacrificing performance.
It’s worth noting that Astranis’ approach is a bit different from others in the satellite space. Companies like SpaceX are focusing on putting massive constellations of satellites in low-Earth orbit. While this is great for certain applications, it doesn’t meet the needs of companies that want to place their hardware in a position to serve a certain place on Earth. That requires launching satellites into a much higher orbital level.
GEO communications satellites also tend to be older than their low-Earth orbit counterparts. This means that many of them are ready to be replaced.
Astranis wants to make it easy for companies to do so. Its MicroGEO satellites are compatible with the existing infrastructure on Earth that customers are using. So, at the same time, companies can benefit from a much cheaper launch and upgraded tech by working with Astranis.
That makes it easier to understand the appeal of the startup and its mission. It also explains the massive funding round Astranis just completed.
Aside from the $250 million amount, Astranis’ Series C round is noteworthy for other reasons. For one, it was led by BlackRock. In the spaceflight startup world, that has become an important name.
Over the past few years, BlackRock has also been a key participant in deals bringing spaceflight firms public through SPAC mergers. Astra is one such startup that took this route. Although there is no guarantee that Astranis will pursue a similar opportunity, the BlackRock connection can’t be ignored.
Meanwhile, new investors for the round included Baillie Gifford, Fidelity, and Koch Strategic Platform. Several of Astranis’ previous investors renewed their interest by contributing to the round.
All said, the satellite startup now holds a valuation of $1.4 billion after its Series C. That’s a substantial figure. Moving forward, the cash injection should help Astranis continue to disrupt the GEO satellite sector with its compact, affordable hardware.