ICEYE took Finland’s first commercial satellites into orbit

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Espoo-based ICEYE has an ambitious goal: to create a global data service based on satellite imagery. High stakes set stiff requirements – also for investors.

 ICEYE is developing a unique global service based on market-leading satellite and radar imaging technologies. This sets certain requirements for investors also.

“We’re creating a new market – one that we must also master at a very rapid pace as soon as it’s opened. Consequently, at some point we’ll require follow-on financing of maybe hundreds of millions of euros quite abruptly – so we need investors of a certain calibre,” explains ICEYE’s CSO and co-founder Pekka Laurila.

“We want players we can trust to stay involved throughout ICEYE’s growth as our partners. We hope investors will be a suitable size, of course. But we also want them to be actively present in our operations and to set their sights as high as ICEYE’s lofty vision. On top of this, a technological background would naturally be a plus – because when interests coincide, the job usually gets done.”

ICEYE’s expertise and vision have convinced investors since the company’s beginnings. ICEYE has successfully completed numerous financing rounds over the last few years.

“Compared to Silicon Valley financing, our operations have attracted a high proportion of university and state financing, at least in the company’s early days. That’s because we’re developing equipment for space, and that makes it a high-risk business from the start,” explains Laurila.

A constellation of radar-imaging satellites will open new doors

ICEYE aims to create a data service covering the globe, which in future could be used by governments and businesses just as widely and reliably as GPS positioning is used today. The core of the service ICEYE is developing is the company’s own radar sensor and microsatellite, which can be manufactured cost-effectively and deployed as a constellation spread around the globe.

This combination of technologies is a market leader and will enable the delivery of updated imaging data for any location whatsoever, every single hour – no matter whether it is dark or cloudy. The service offers a solution to the current lack of information in many areas, including in the maritime, catastrophe response, insurance, finance, safety and intelligence sectors.

“We’re developing a new type of technology for space, which already makes our work exciting at the engineering level. What we’re doing is of much wider importance than that, though, because our service will assist in responding to major global problems. Radar imaging will allow monitoring flood damage and supporting a rapid response to it, for instance, or detecting illegal fishing in the world’s oceans,” Laurila says.

A milestone year for satellites

Last year was a milestone year for ICEYE because the company launched its first satellite in January 2018. The ICEYE-X1 was Finland’s very first commercial satellite and, weighing in at less than 100 kg, the world’s first microsatellite equipped with synthetic-aperture radar ever to be deployed in space. Launched in California on SpaceX’s rocket, the ICEYE-X2 satellite followed in early December 2018.

“Our second satellite in December allowed us to demonstrate to our customers the technology needed for a commercial satellite constellation. During 2019, with the financing we’ve received so far, we’ll scale up our operations, build up our commercial services and launch many more satellites,” promises Laurila.


What it is: Established in 2014, ICEYE is a Finnish company manufacturing synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) satellites and selling satellite-based information.

Where it is: The company employs some 70 people, mainly in Espoo, Finland, but also has operations in Poland and the USA.

Financing: ICEYE has already raised MEUR 55 in financing, partly from Business Finland (Tekes) and the European Commission’s H2020 financing mechanism and partly from many other investors such as True Ventures, Tesi, Draper Nexus and Promus Ventures.


The article was first published in Tesi’s Annual Report 2018 here.