Image Credit: flickr
San Francisco-based Spire, which has built a constellation of over 100 small satellites to track maritime and aviation shipping and provide data for weather forecasting, announced Wednesday that it has closed a $40 million round. With this infusion of capital, the company aims to bring its weather forecasting products into the Asia-Pacific region.
“Sophisticated tracking of ships, planes and weather data is significantly more scarce in one half of the world’s GDP than the other,” says Spire CEO and cofounder Peter Platzer. “This will allow us to start penetrating more of that market.”
Spire’s weather satellites gather weather data with the aid of a unique resource: the radio waves beamed down to Earth by navigational satellites such as those found in the U.S.-based GPS system or Europe’s navigational satellites. As those radio waves move through the atmosphere, they are refracted. Exactly how the waves are diffracted depend on atmospheric properties such as temperature and humidity.
Spire’s satellites can observe those radio waves and measure their diffraction, enabling the company to determine the temperature and pressure at different points in the atmosphere. That data can then be used to produce weather forecasts. And because Spire’s satellite constellations were originally built to monitor maritime data, they’re pointed at the Earth’s oceans. This provides a good supplementary source of data to more traditional weather satellite constellations, which tend to be focused on land and coastlines.
This round of financing, which brings the company’s total venture financing to about $190 million, was led by the GPO Fund, Perennial Management and Bessemer Ventures. A portion of the funding also comes from new regional strategic partners Itochu and Mitsui. According to a statement from Hiroshi Fujikawa, Itochu aerospace general manager, the two companies will work together to develop “innovative new solutions for the increasing demand for satellite-based Earth observation.”
The capital the company is raising is aimed in part at bringing marketing and sales operations into the region, and Platzer says that the two strategic partnerships are key to accelerating those operations. Additionally, the capital will be used to create weather analytics products that are more relevant to the region.
“There are specific extreme weather events that are more prevalent in the Asia-Pacific region,” says Platzer. “And with this funding and these partners, we’re able to focus more on delivering products and solutions for those events.”