Kuva Spacea hyperspectral imaging startup founded in Finland, has closed a €16.6 million ($17.6 million) Series A funding round as it plans to deploy up to 100 satellites by the end of the decade.
The startup, formerly called Reaktor Space Lab, was founded in 2016 and spent its first four years focused on building nanosatellites for companies including the European Space Agency. To date, it has successfully launched three satellites, including a cubesat containing a small hyperspectral camera demonstration. It wasn’t until around 2020 that the company decided to embark on a hyperspectral constellation, with Kuva closing a €4.2 million ($4.85 million) funding round in October 2021 to start.
“Building nanosatellites for other people is not the greatest business in the world,” Jarkko Antila, CEO of Kuva Space, said in a recent interview. “We’ve always been looking at these different opportunities to get into the digital services business, maybe through telecommunications or also hyperspectral.”
Hyperspectral imaging can read the “spectral signature” of materials on Earth, meaning it can be used to identify crops, minerals and even gas. There is a demand for this type of information across verticals ranging from agriculture to oil and gas to defense.
Kuva says its constellation’s ground pixel size will be the smallest among its competitors because it uses a 2D imaging system that overlays images from different bands using software. (It aims to launch two commercial microsatellites next year.) The company can also select which bands it wants its satellites to measure, a key way to get better results for customers, Antila said.
“Instead of measuring 250 strips, you can have 25 and you can take 10 times as many photos in the exact same place,” he explained. “With this, you can increase the signal-to-noise ratio, which is the critical technical parameter in hyperspectral, whether your data makes sense or not.”
Kuva plans to offer information to customers through a subscription, with readily available data that does not require a customer to order a satellite in advance. The startup’s objective is to achieve a more than weekly revisit rate with a constellation of six satellites launched over the next two years. The company plans to expand to more daily visits to many parts of the world by 2026 and wants to reach 100 satellites in orbit by 2030.
“We want to bring a true SaaS model to the Earth observation sector,” he said.
The startup, which has won contracts with the European Commission and won the NATO Innovation Challenge, aims to create a US entity to open up collaboration opportunities with the US Department of Defense and other US organizations. Some of these organizations, such as the United States National Reconnaissance Office, have showed an appetite for such data. The company currently has 20 employees but plans to triple its team in the coming months.
The round was led by existing investors Voima Ventures and Nordic Foodtech VC, with participation from Singapore fund Earth VC. The round also included capital from Finnish private investors via a Finnish growth fund called Springvest and non-equity financing from Business Finland.