Startup space companies raised more than $2 billion in new funding during the past three years, according to a recently released funding report.
New York-based research consultant CB Insights tracked funding for emerging companies in the space industry since the beginning of 2012. Its report focuses on a burgeoning business segment — encompassing rockets and launch vehicles, satellite services and others areas — often collectively referred to as New Space enterprise or what the report dubs “frontier tech.”
Hawthorne, Calif.-based rocket company SpaceX topped the list of best-funded new companies with $1.19 billion, followed by the $500 million raised by British Channel Islands-based OneWeb, which aims to create a near-Earth satellite constellation to provide global Internet service. Data-sat services provider Planet Labs of San Francisco has been the third most successful space startup in raising funds, at $196.1 million.
The funding report, released Aug. 28, shows a total $2.16 billion has been raised in the span studied, with $1.75 billion of that coming in the first half of this year.
That was thanks to two big deals: SpaceX secured $1 billion from Google and Fidelity in January in an equity arrangement giving the investors a 10% stake, and OneWeb raised $500 million in a June funding by Intelsat and several other investors.
As for space-enterprise funding by venture capital firms, Rothenberg Ventures and Google Ventures were the “most active” in the span studied, though VC firms tend not to disclose investment amounts.
“Rothenberg has made multiple early-stage bets including AltspaceVR, Matterport and Dronebase,” CB Insights said.
“A variety of other VC firms, including Andreessen Horowitz, Qualcomm Ventures, Lux Capital and Intel Capital, rounded up the top three,” the report added.
Additional areas of space enterprise covered in the report include drones, augmented and virtual reality, space mining and space debris cleanup.
Meantime, the surge in space startups reflects a growing consensus that the celestial frontier will see a continuing expansion of business interest in coming decades. A recent study by the Space Foundation calculated that the satellite sector alone would generate $255 billion in revenue during the next decade.
Indeed, space enterprise already is producing impressively robust revenue. A separate Space Foundation report showed the worldwide space economy grew 9% — to $330 billion — in 2014.