Toronto-based startup Kepler Communications closed another tranche of capital to continue building out its on-orbit data network.
The new funding, which comes to $92 million, will be used to launch a constellation of optical communications satellites next year. Those satellites will join Kepler’s existing network of 19 radio-frequency satellites operating in sun-synchronous orbits (SSO). Two more satellites are scheduled to join that constellation with the launch of SpaceX’s Transporter-7 mission next week.
According to Kepler’s website, the new optical relay network will deliver data at 2.5 Gbps to satellites in low Earth orbit. The company plans to place the optical communications satellites in “two near-orthogonal planes” in SSO to enable continuous connection. The network infrastructure will act as Internet exchange points for in-space data relay, similar to how internet traffic is exchanged on Earth, and enable real-time data relays between spacecraft and to Earth.
The new funding was led by IA Ventures, which has been investing in Kepler since its seed round in 2016. Other participating investors include Costanoa Ventures, Canaan Partners, Tribe Capital, and BDC Capital’s Industrial Innovation Venture Fund. Kepler’s now raised over $200 million to date.
“Exponentially decreasing launch costs make space more accessible than ever, but connectivity beyond Earth is still costly, challenging, and inconsistent,” IA Ventures general partner Brad Gillespie said in a statement. He added that the network provides connectivity between assets in space and Earth, and “someday to Mars and beyond.”
Kepler will launch two satellites this year to test and validate the optical communication technology. In addition to satellites, Kepler operates its own ground stations and in-house satellite production facilities.