Oxfordshire-based space satellite startup Open Cosmos has raised over £5 million ($7 million) in a series A funding round as part of its mission to make satellites more affordable and accessible to everyone.
Located at European Space Agency (ESA) Business Incubator at Harwell Campus, Open Cosmos intends to use the money to grow the team from 22 to 50 staff, get facilities to manufacture 30 satellites a year and to significantly increase its marketing activity.
The company was founded on the Entrepreneur First incubator program in July 2015 by Rafael Jordà Siquier, who studied aerospace engineering at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Barcelona, before completing an MBA and working for a disruptive launching company and a big space corporation.
Rafael wants to democratise satellites in the same way that computers were democratised after their initial rollout in the 1960s.
“Early mainframe computers were extremely expensive, there were only a few of them in the world and they were predominantly used by big organisations,” he said. “They were several square metres in size until a few intrepid entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley made them portable, more affordable and disrupted a whole industry. Thanks to that, everyone now uses them. At first they didn’t know what they would be using them for, but now we all have indispensable applications in our pockets. The space industry is ripe for the same disruption. We believe that our service based on smaller, more affordable, more accessible satellites, will enable new applications to emerge.”
Those wanting to put a satellite into space have traditionally had to pay several million and wait for years,but Open Cosmos is offering entire missions that start from £500,000 ($700,000) and can be delivered in less than a year.
The company’s satellites, which range from 4kg to 30kg, follow a standardised modular design that makes it easy to integrate almost any sensor. Space agencies, corporates, and entrepreneurs can use Open Cosmos satellites to demonstrate new technologies, carry out research, or provide services to their own customers.
The company builds and assembles the satellites in Harwell, handling all the launch bureaucracy, and even operates the satellites so customers use the satellite right from their computer.
The actual satellite launch is outsourced to companies that specialise in rocket launches. “We have agreements with all major launching companies in the world,” said Rafael. “We want to provide our customers with as many launch opportunities as possible to as many orbits as possible from any continent in the world.”
Once satellites are in orbit, Open Cosmos takes full control of them. Data collected by the satellite will be sent to the customer.
“It is great to see that an ESA Business Incubation Centre start-up has come up with such a smart, efficient, low-cost and successful solution to go into space,” said ESA Director General Jan Wörner.
“Open Cosmos is an excellent example of the entrepreneurs and their start-ups we are supporting in our 18 centres. In total we have now fostered over 600 start-ups, and taking in another 160 new ones each year. They come up with new concepts and develop new disruptive innovations building on space technology spin-off and satellite data. Like Open Cosmos, solutions which add quality to our daily life, create new business and new high-tech jobs.”
Wendy Tan White MBE, Trustee Alan Turing Institute, BGF Ventures advisor and Open Cosmos investment director, said: “Rafael is an exceptional entrepreneur. We are excited and confident that Raf and his team are going to revolutionise the satellite industry in the coming years and we look forward to seeing what kind of applications entrepreneurs can build when they have relatively cheap access to satellite data and an easily accessible operations stack.”
Open Cosmos successfully launched its first satellite for the European Commission QB50 program in 2017.