It seems that even the raging COVID-19 pandemic on Earth is unable to force humanity to abandon its attempts to conquer Outer Space. Space technologies are developing so rapidly that they have become leaders in terms of investment attractiveness.
The current volume of the global space market is estimated to be $350 billion to $400 billion, of which only a quarter is in the public sector. A large influx of private investment began in 2014 and has been attributed to the fact that space technologies are increasingly being used not only for military or government purposes but also for commercial purposes, such as navigation, satellite TV, communications, Earth observation, etc.
Over the past five years, the annual growth of venture capital in the space industry has been about 30% to 35%. In 2018, the amount of private investment in space projects reached $3.25 billion; in 2019, they reached $5.8 billion.
This year has been showing more modest investments attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic uncertainty as a result. However, the general trend remains unchanged: the capitalization of the space market is growing rapidly. According to forecasts by Morgan Stanley, they could reach as much as $1 trillion by 2040.
SpaceX remains the most attractive for investors. According to the results from the second quarter of this year, Elon Musk’s company attracted $346 million in private investment. Over the 18 years of its existence, the company has received more than $36 billion, a record amount.
Here’s a brief look at the venture capital funds that invest the most in space, which startups and niches are developing, and how successful they are.
Space Angels (before 2017, known as Space Capital)
The company was founded in the United States in 2007 and is the most active investor in the global space economy. Its track record includes 53 investments, primarily in GPS, geospatial intelligence, and communications niches. Since 2012, the company has been headed by a young American entrepreneur, Chad Anderson, who previously managed a $50 billion portfolio of real estate at JP Morgan Chase.
The hallmark of Space Angels is its online platform for accredited investors, simplifying the exchange of information on investment opportunities. This makes it easy to find, select, and invest in the most attractive space startups. The average investment portfolio attracted by Space Angels is $5 million to $10 million, and the largest, at more than $1 billion, went to SpaceX in 2018-2019.
Other notable recipients of funds from Space Angels include:
- Planet Labs, an American manufacturer of CubeSats, which has an active constellation of 175 Earth remote sensing satellites in orbit with a resolution of 3.5 m.
- LeoLabs, the world’s only provider of commercial radar tracking services for objects in low Earth Orbit.
- Totum Labs, the developer of the innovative DMSS satellite communications standard, provides global coverage, including indoors, at a low cost with long battery life and GPS/GNSS-independent positioning.
This British venture capital firm was created in 2006. During this time, it has attracted investments in 50 companies, most of which belong to the space ecosystem. The fund’s CEO and Managing Partner is Mark Bogget, who has 18 years of venture and technology investing experience.
Seraphim Capital’s main investment niches are satellites, satellite data, drones, robotization, space hardware and software, the Internet of things, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology. The company focuses on the British and European markets, and the average share of investments in startups is £2 million to £5 million.
The firm also invests in large projects:
- Spire Global – the American company from San Francisco operates a fleet of more than 80 nano and mini satellites that track sea and air routes and weather changes.
- ICEYE – this Finnish microsatellite manufacturer offers commercial access to its 1 meter SAR images. The advantage of SAR satellites is that they do not require bright or clear skies to collect images allowing them to operate around the clock and in all weather conditions.
Noosphere Venture Partners
Noosphere Ventures invests in projects from all over the world mainly focused on space and development of a New Space concept. Currently, its portfolio includes 17 investments. Noosphere was founded in 2014 in Silicon Valley, California, USA. The company’s managing partner is entrepreneur Max Polyakov, the founder and consultant of several startups that have grown into international businesses.
In 2017, Noosphere Venture Partners acquired Firefly, a fledgling aerospace startup, and invested over $80 million in the acquisition. The infusion of funds contributed to the rapid development of the company. In 2019, Firefly Aerospace was invited to participate in NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program. It is preparing to launch its first light-class Alpha rocket in the near future and plans to firmly establish itself in the market for orbital commercial small satellite launches.
Other key investments of Polyakov’s Noosphere Venture Partners include:
- EOS (Earth Observing System), an innovative online platform for receiving, processing, and transmitting images from satellites. EOS solutions are used by thousands of individuals, companies, and organizations around the world.
- SETS (Space Electric Thrust Systems), this company develops electrical power plants for LEO launch systems.
- D-Orbit, which offers unique satellite equipment and comprehensive service for launching and deploying CubeSats with their precise positioning in independent orbital slots.
In addition to the large private investors mentioned above, there are also many smaller ones as well. Their number is growing every day and with it human capabilities to conquer not only the endless expanses of space but also to improve life on our own planet.