Spaceflight moves ahead on satellite portal

Image: Spaceflight Industries at work
One of BlackSky’s Pathfinder satellites undergoes final integration. (Credit: BlackSky)

Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries is moving ahead on two fronts to build an online portal for satellite imagery: It has secured $18 million in new venture capital, and is acquiring a Virginia-based company called OpenWhere to create the software platform for distributing the images.

“It’s all about the democratization of data about the planet,” Jason Andrews, CEO of Spaceflight Industries, told GeekWire.

The current round of Series B financing is led by Mithril Capital Management, a San Francisco investment firm founded by Ajay Royan and PayPal veteran Peter Thiel. (Yes, that Peter Thiel.) Other contributors to the round include previous investors RRE Venture Capital; Razor’s Edge Ventures; and Vulcan Capital, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s investment arm.

By the time the round is complete, Spaceflight Industries expects to raise as much as $25 million. That would bring cumulative investment in the privately held company to $53.5 million.

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Now it’s easier for feds to buy a launch

Image: SHERPA carrier
Spaceflight’s SHERPA carrier is set to deploy 87 satellites. (Credit: Spaceflight)

Federal agencies can now buy a satellite launch as easily as they buy pencils, thanks to a new arrangement with Seattle-based Spaceflight.

OK, maybe it’s not quite that easy. You still have to get the go-ahead to put something into orbit, whether you’re a climate scientist at NASA or Agent Fox Mulder at the FBI. But once that go-ahead is given, the launch can be ordered from a standardized menu instead of going through a months-long contracting process.

“What this does is make it a more expeditious process,” Spaceflight’s president, Curt Blake, told GeekWire.

Spaceflight is the first launch service provider to be awarded what’s known as a General Services Administration Professional Services Schedule. That means any federal official who’s authorized to spend the money can order a CubeSat or a MicroSat launch online, via the GSA Advantage’s eBuy site.

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An out-of-this-world deal for Cyber Monday

Image: CubeSats
Spaceflight’s Cyber Monday deal will deliver satellites to orbit in 2018. (Credit: Spaceflight)

Here’s a Cyber Monday deal from Seattle-based Spaceflight for the space geek on your list: Purchase a satellite launch for one-third off, at the low, low price of $200,000.

The only catch is that you’ll have to wait until 2018 for the satellite to be delivered. But that’s the way it is with travel plans, whether you’re heading to a vacation resort or putting a 3U CubeSat in a sun-synchronous orbit 310 miles (500 kilometers) above the planet. “Booking early is the best for both parties,” said Phil Brzytwa, Spaceflight’s business development manager.

Through the end of the year, Spaceflight is offering up to 36 CubeSat spots on the company’s SHERPA satellite port at $200,000 (marked down from the list price of $295,000), and it’s not clear how long they’ll last.

“Already this morning we’ve had seven inquiries from all around the planet, and my inbox is filling up,” Brzytwa told GeekWire. There’s a limit of four CubeSats per customer.

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Three future frontiers for Seattle space ventures

Image: Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin
Jeff Bezos shows off the concept for Blue Origin’s launch system during a September news conference in Florida. Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture is headquartered in Kent, Wash. (Blue Origin photo)

What is it about Seattle that’s led some folks to call it the “Silicon Valley of space,”and how far can space entrepreneurs go in the next 20 years? One of the panels at Friday’s Xconomy Seattle 2035 conference tackled those questions – and added a couple of shorter-term predictions as well.

Jason Andrews, the CEO of Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc., listed three reasons why Seattle is up there with Southern California, Silicon Valley, Texas and Florida’s Space Coast when it comes to commercial spaceflight.

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Spaceflight buys SpaceX rocket for satellites

Image: SpaceX launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off in April, sending cargo to the International Space Station. The payloads included Planetary Resources’ A3R satellite, which was flown under an arrangement with Seattle-based Spaceflight. (Credit: SpaceX)

In the first deal of its kind, Seattle-based Spaceflight says it’s buying a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that will be set aside exclusively for launching other people’s small satellites into orbit.

The first dedicated rideshare launch is due to go into sun-synchronous low Earth orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California during the latter half of 2017, said Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight’s launch business. Sun-synchronous orbits are particularly popular for Earth imaging satellites, and Spaceflight anticipates buying a dedicated SpaceX Falcon 9 every year to service the market.

“By purchasing and manifesting the entire SpaceX rocket, Spaceflight is well-positioned to meet the small-sat industry’s growing demand for routine, reliable access to space,” Blake said in a statement issued Wednesday.

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