Geospatial intelligence startup BlackSky raises $50M from Intelsat to pair earth observation with global communications infrastructure
BlackSky, a Seattle-based satellite-imaging-as-a-service startup, has closed a $50 million senior secured loan from global satellite communications company Intelsat. The transaction results in an industry first, creating a strategic relationship that pairs Earth observation with a global communications infrastructure.
The new capital will allow BlackSky to augment existing assets and alliances, ensuring BlackSky remains a leader in delivering actionable Earth intelligence faster, with greater accuracy and more affordably than anyone else in the industry. Over time, BlackSky could incorporate access to Intelsat’s robust global communications infrastructure, delivering first-to-know insights to customers no matter where in the world they are. BlackSky currently has four 1-meter satellites in orbit with another four slated for launch in early 2020, and plans to have 16 satellites in its constellation by early 2021.
Founded in 2013, BlackSky is the driving force behind looking at our planet in real-time, providing an easy, affordable way to order and access high-quality satellite imaging to vastly improve understanding about our world. Through a planned 60-satellite constellation capturing over 95 percent of the Earth’s populated area, the company will provide near real-time satellite imagery to ensure businesses, nonprofits, and governments make well-informed decisions.
“BlackSky is enabling a whole new level of global intelligence by leveraging the economics of small satellites so that our customers will always be the first to know,” said Brian E. O’Toole, President and CEO of BlackSky. “It takes a lot of expertise, engineering and capital to make smallsats viable; BlackSky is the first company to overcome these challenges with proven economies of scale. This latest partnership is a vote of confidence in our ability to deliver industry leading insights to our customers from one of the biggest players in the market.”
With an established manufacturing capability, mission operations center and sales channels in place, BlackSky is in the process of expanding its constellation of smallsats that will deliver the highest revisit rate in the industry. The company is also leading the industry in fusing AI/ML-powered computer vision, high revisit rate imagery from orbital assets and open-source intelligence to provide customers with comprehensive, deep insights about the locations in the world they care about.
“BlackSky is well positioned to be a significant player in the expanding earth observation sector, which we believe benefits from accelerating trends including cloud computing, change detection, predictive analytics and machine learning. We believe a significant number of commercial and government sector customers will increasingly rely on geospatial intelligence,” said Intelsat CEO Stephen Spengler. “Our investment will be used to fund enhancements to the current BlackSky infrastructure and will serve as a springboard for a commercial alliance with Intelsat and our Intelsat General government subsidiary.”