Atlas Space Operations Raises $26M Series B

Atlas Space Operations has raised a $26M Series B led by Mitsui. The ground-software-as-a-service provider is turning its attention to growth.

Atlas 101: Though the Michigan-based startup provides service from a network of 13 ground stations across the globe, its key value lies in its software, CEO Sean McDaniel told Payload. “We solve the hard problems of connecting satellites in orbit to networks of ground stations…with a cloud hosted, machine learning-based platform that really is designed to abstract all of those complexities.”

With most platforms, satellite operators need to manually decide when and where to communicate with ground stations. That requires a lot of humans in the loop and a long lead time to figure out the communication schedule.

Atlas’ software platform, Freedom, attacks that problem by using machine learning to determine the best times to talk with a satellite based on the customer’s preferences. The result is a more flexible, automated experience that reduces the burden on the operator.

  • The platform uses a priority-based scheduling construct to weigh ground station capacity with customer comms needs.
  • Per McDaniel, the system’s choices are in line with the choices the customers would have made ~98% of the time, and the company is working on bringing that closer to 100%.
  • Freedom is “medium-agnostic,” McDaniel said, and can make these decisions regardless of where the data is coming from or what form it’s in—including, potentially, optical links.

“I think it’s a leap forward in how we think about selling ground network scheduling, and, quite frankly, how we think about incorporating the future of connectivity between space and ground to include optical communication, as well as emerging space relay capabilities,” said McDaniel.

Atlas currently employs 43 people across seven states. Its customer base straddles both government and commercial space, and includes NASA, the DoD, BlackSky, Planet, and Capella Space.

The round: Atlas is putting this $26M investment toward growth. That means building out its team to reach more customers and to better equip itself to win larger government deals, particularly with the Pentagon’s hybrid space architecture. 

Mitsui’s involvement, McDaniel said, will also help the company to expand into international markets.

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