LeoLabs lands $29M to dodge space junk with AI smarts

Bucks needed to keep an eye on Buck Rogers

LeoLabs, a company noted for cataloging objects in low Earth orbit, has scored another $29 million in financing for its AI-powered tracking tech.

The investment [PDF] brings the total funding to approximately $121 million, according to Crunchbase. CEO Dan Ceperley said the funding would be used to beef up LeoLabs's architecture and system software. End user applications and partner integrations are also on the shopping list.

AI algorithms are used by LeoLabs to turn data from its sensor network into insights for space operators and lays claim to the world's largest commercial orbital catalog. It issues alerts to operators regarding potential collisions, and the oversubscribed funding round is a sign of the seriousness with which the state of orbital space is being taken.

El Reg recently spoke with the CEO of Neuraspace, a company specializing in the management of orbital spacecraft, who warned that although collisions were not taking place every day, the situation was unlikely to improve if nothing was done to manage the problem.

"Space is becoming one of the key growth areas of this decade and beyond," said Per Roman, Managing Partner at GP Bullhound, who led the latest investment round.

"We are also deeply concerned that if humanity's space expansion is not monitored and managed in a fair and equitable way, we may end up with environmental challenges in space that can harm life on our planet."

LeoLabs' Low Earth Orbit visualization tool is a useful service for understanding the issue, even though it might result in a few sleepless nights for those with commercial interests in space.

The US Space System Command recently selected LeoLabs for the Space Domain Awareness Tools, Applications, and Processing Accelerator program. It said: "This program enables LeoLabs to demonstrate its AI-powered solutions for Combat ID and Space Battle Management."

LeoLabs also provided tracking support for the re-entry of ESA's Aeolus satellite.

Former NASA astronaut Ed Lu is a co-founder of LeoLabs. The company is based in California and was set up in 2016. Lu also co-founded the B612 Foundation, an organization dedicated to planetary defense from asteroids and other near-Earth objects. During his NASA career, Lu flew on the Space Shuttle twice and had a long-duration stint onboard the International Space Station (ISS) as part of Expedition 7. ®

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