Satellites are becoming both smaller and cheaper, and one company in Finland is moving to capitalize on its early success as quickly as possible.
Fresh off its debut launch in January, startup ICEYE more than doubled its total backing in a recent $34 million round of venture capital fundraising. ICEYE is combining a special type of earth observation technology – known as synthetic aperture radar (or SAR) – with a microsatellite form factor and a low Earth orbit.
The new funds mean ICEYE will be able to take that first launch and upgrade the proven technology, closing in on its goal of building the world's largest SAR satellite constellation.
"We get two years of time, we get nine satellites, and we can tell our customers that we have a completely financed product," CEO Rafal Modrzewski told CNBC.
ICEYE's first satellite, X1, was about the size of a microwave. Launched aboard an Indian Rocket with 30 other satellites, X1 took 600 images during its first few months "and they were really good quality," Modrzewski said.
The success of the X1 mission was a catalyst that is now pushing ICEYE even farther than expected. Modrzewski said the company was able to sell imaging from its experimental mission, even though it was not necessarily planning to do so before the launch.
"It turned out to be a product that distributed really, really quickly because people really wanted to see that this was happening," Modrzewski added.