Luxembourg space cluster lures cubesat pioneer Spire with talent, investment cash

19 November 2017

San Francisco-headquartered “satellite-powered” data and analytics company Spire has cast a vote of confidence in Luxembourg’s bid to be a leading space business cluster, announcing plans to establish its European headquarters in the Grand Duchy and a new shareholder in the form of the €150m Luxembourg Future Fund.

The European Union- and European Investment Bank-backed LFF is to take part in a $70m Spire funding round expected to close in November 2017. This latest funding round will take equity investment in Spire, founded in 2013, to nearly $100m, building on some $4m in start-up money and another $25m raised in 2014 from RRE Ventures, Moose Capital, Quihoo and Mitsui & Co Global Investment. Spire was initially incubated by San Francisco hardware accelerator Lemnos Labs.

Of Luxembourg, Spire chief executive Peter Platzer says: “We’ve been deeply impressed with the support, commitment, and expertise of Luxembourg when it comes to New Space. Their robust yet supportive regulatory environment for New Space companies, coupled with incredible open access to international talent and targeted investment vehicles, made Luxembourg an obvious choice for our expansion.”

Spire today has about 50 cubesats in orbit. It describes its business as “deliver insights into the parts of the world where collecting data is notoriously difficult”, tracking ships, aircraft and weather. One new customer is Global Fishing Watch, which is using Spire maritime tracking data to monitor illegal and overfishing.

Luxembourg’s space sector pedigree is nothing if not varied, with Spire’s low-orbit Earth observation focus being perhaps a new angle for a country with fewer than 600,000 residents. Perhaps best known as home to satellite telecoms major SES, Luxembourg has more recently boasted of attracting start-ups in the nascent field of space resources; that is, asteroid mining. Another November boost for the government’s space ambitions came as Gary Martin, former director of partnerships at NASA Ames, joined its Space Affairs department as an independent advisor.

Separately, Spire recently hired Campbell Fitch as global head of talent, based at its Glasgow office. And, Bryan LeBlanc, who formerly led Jive Software’s NASDAQ public listing, joined as chief financial officer.