The space industry started the first quarter of this year the way it ended the last – with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of private funding flowing into commercial space companies.
There were 20 deals worth nearly $1 billion in the space industry in the first quarter, according to investment firm Space Angels — though $500 million of that was a single deal: A big investment from Fidelity Investments in Elon Musk's SpaceX to develop its constellation of 4,425 broadband satellites.
Small rockets – typically priced between $2 million to $5 million per launch – have been a dominant theme this year, especially thanks to Rocket Lab's first orbital launch of its Electron vehicle in January. With Vector and Virgin Orbit also pushing to reach orbital launch this year, these rocket builders are hoping to seize a part of the premium market to launch small satellites.
"We see the entry of small launch vehicles as a specialization within the sector and an indication that commercial launch is maturing," Space Angels CEO Chad Anderson wrote in the report.
Companies focused on building and operating launch vehicles dominated first quarter investments, accounting for more than 72 percent with about $700 million, due to SpaceX's heavy fundraising. With its recent $35 million round, Relativity Space also stands out as it works to manufacture orbital rockets with massive, custom-built 3-D printers. Likewise, World View Enterprises closed a $26.5 million round of funding to further develop its technology to send equipment to the edge of space using high-altitude balloons.
While much of the launch fundraising was in later stage investments, there have been 11 early stage deals (also known as seed and Series A funding rounds) so far this year, including the $15 million round of Australian satellite company Myriota.