Nov 13, 2017

Loft Orbital is Launching a Specialty Service That Leases Space on Satellites

Loft Orbital is the latest entrant, offering a "rideshare service" of buying satellites and then leasing space onboard to multiple customers. The company announced Monday it raised $3.2 million in a recent seed funding round led by Uncork Capital.

"We want to make the experience of accessing space as easy as buying cloud services from Amazon Web Services," CEO Antoine de Chassy told CNBC. "Instead of building or buying a satellite for your sensor, just lease space onboard one of our satellites and fly with us."

With its first satellite launch planned for 2019, de Chassy says Loft will now focus on purchasing satellites from manufacturing partners and bringing on more customers. He says Loft is tapping into an underserved market, due to the traditionally complex and capital-heavy requirements for launching a satellite.

"We're targeting the smaller, more fragmented landscape of smaller sensors – roughly $1 million to $2 million per year deal size for us," de Chassy said. "It's similar to how Boeing and Airbus sell aircraft directly to large customers ... but also sell to aircraft leasing companies who lease aircraft to smaller airlines."

One of the investors in the most recent round, MDI Ventures, is an arm of Telkom Indonesia — the largest telecom company in the southeast Asian country. CEO Nicko Widjaja says his venture capital group has been looking to invest in the space industry for two years, looking at over half a dozen companies throughout the San Francisco bay area and Texas.

"While most are still in early deployment, Loft has already attracted customers and it's related to what we do at Telkom Indonesia," Widjaja said. "What Loft offers makes sense for our corporate customers."

Loft aims to fly 12 to 15 satellites per year, negotiating the launch contracts with rocket companies for its customers and operating the units once in orbit. While recent buzz has focused on the development of smaller cubesats, Loft will fly "washing machine-sized satellites."

"We want to use standard satellites because it enables us to create a USB-like interface," de Chassy added. "Our interface will ultimately be able to accommodate any sensor looking for a ride to space … [which] dramatically reduces the cost and time to integrate and test the satellite."

 

(Michael Sheetz/CNBC)