A satellite image taken at night on Nov. 14, 2022 of NASA’s Artemis I mission before launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
San Francisco-based satellite imagery specialist Capella Space raised $60 million in fresh capital, the company announced Tuesday.
Capella raised the equity from the U.S. Innovative Technology Fund, a recently established private investment vehicle of billionaire Thomas Tull. The investor is best known for his work in the film industry, having started the production studio Legendary Entertainment behind blockbuster movies such as “Dune” and “The Dark Knight.”
Capella is the fund’s first space investment, Tull told CNBC.
“It’s the combination of the best available imaging that we’re aware of … and other data tools” for analysis, Tull said, adding, “If you’re going to take a ton of images from space, you better be able to sort through them.”
The latest raise brings Capella to about $250 million in total equity and debt financing since its founding in 2016. The company declined to disclose its valuation after the new fund-raise.
“I’ve never celebrated any fundraisings that we’ve done – it was always sort of the thing that needed to happen for us to do other important things – and this is similar but, as you know, the market is crazy. So I think it validates all the good things that we’ve been doing, when [we] can raise capital from quality investors like Thomas,” Capella founder and CEO Payam Banazadeh told CNBC.
This video shows the Capella-3 satellite’s reflector deployment, using the its boom as a “selfie stick”. The reflector is folded and compact as it reaches space and expands to a 3.5 meter diameter object.
Capella’s business is focused on the satellite imagery market, with its satellites using a specialized technology known as synthetic aperture radar, or SAR. The advantage of SAR is its ability to capture images at any time, even at night or through cloud cover – which is often an impediment for traditional optical satellite tech.
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The company has grown its head count to just over 200 people – nearly doubling in size last year – and has seven satellites currently in orbit. While Banazadeh declined to specify how many more satellites Capella plans to deploy in orbit, he said, “we have quite a bit” of its next-generation Acadia satellites lined up to launch this year.
“There is more demand than there is supply, and that’s a good problem to have,” Banazadeh said.
The company doubled the volume of imagery it collected year over year, but revenue growth continues to be Banazadeh’s “north star.”
“We’re super focused on market adoption, and therefore revenue is the metric that we use … we had exceptional growth in 2022 … and we expect similar growth in ’23,” he said
Capella has also brought on a trio of executives: Chad Cohen joined as chief financial officer from Adaptive Biotechnologies; tech consultant Glen Elliott came on as chief human resources officer; and Paul Stephen, formerly of Zillow Group, joined as chief information security officer.
Correction: Glen Elliott is joining Capella as chief human resources officer. An earlier version misspelled his name. Paul Stephen is joining the company as chief information security officer. An earlier version misstated his title. Capella’s head count is just over 200 people. An earlier version mischaracterized the number.