UK-based Isotropic Systems secured a $14 million Series A funding round lead by Boeing’s venture fund HorizonX Ventures, with participation from WML, Space Angels and Space Capital. But there’s more than money to Boeing’s involvement.
“The Series A financing builds on an exceptional year for Isotropic which saw a rapidly growing roster of strategic partners and customers who are poised to unlock the full potential of high-throughput satellites and mega-constellations across all orbits,” said John Finney, founder and chief executive officer of Isotropic Systems. “Boeing’s investment provides our team access to Boeing experts, testing labs, and other valuable resources to fast-track the deployment of our terminal solutions and to leverage our intellectual property across other space-based and wireless connectivity applications.”
Isotropic is using optical beamforming technology to provide a cost-effective and lower-power antenna solution than current phased array and flat panel technology. The reduction in cost and power usage, plus better performance is an essential missing piece for providing affordable, mass market consumer access to low earth orbit (LEO) broadband networks being rolled out by OneWeb, SpaceX, Telesat, and LeoSat.
Boeing views this as an investment both to lower cost of satellite user terminals and for the UK aerospace market; the company previously invested in Reaction Engines and its engine technology. HorizonX ventures has also invested in satellite Internet of Things (IoT) company Myriota, optical communications solution BridgeSat, and small satellite ionic thrust company Accion Systems.
Isotropic will use the new funding to accelerate the commercialization of its technology and explore new applications in “adjacent markets,” according to a company press release.
According to an interview with Space News, Isotropic plans to ship its first integrated user terminal – antenna, modem, and other electronics – in 2021. The price tag for Ku-band gear would be lower than $300 and a Ka-band terminal would be under $450.
The company considers Kymeta, Phasor, and Satixfy as competitors, but it will also have to face efforts by SpaceX and OneWeb to produce lower-cost mass-market hardware as well. SpaceX’s Starlink effort plans to build their own hardware in-house with a target goal of $200 or so for a gigabit-class user terminal. OneWeb founder Greg Wyler tweeted out a picture of a $15 flat panel antenna the company had been working on and said it might be available for demonstrations at Satellite 2019 show later this year, but it wasn’t clear if this was developed in-house by OneWeb or if it was a part of a teaming effort between it and Isotropic or another company.