Our Investment In Umbra Lab

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We recently made an investment in the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) company Umbra Lab. This Santa Barbara startup is building a unique SAR constellation capable of quarter-meter resolution. The proposed 12 satellite constellation is capable of hourly revisit times at slightly lower resolutions.

Steven Jorgenson, one of our GPs, stated “I have been investing in space since 2004, before most mainstream investors were even aware of the industry. In 2010, I recognized how Planet Labs (now Planet) was a great opportunity to commercialize space in a new way. Today, Planet is considered the leader of the small satellite revolution and is a pillar of NewSpace. Umbra Lab’s technology represents another leap forward in performance, pioneering a new generation of commercial remote sensing.”

This investment is an example of our larger strategy to invest in the opportunities enabled by space, not just in space technologies. Companies like Umbra enable new capabilities for data analytics companies and applications that use the data Umbra is producing.  We expect our portfolio companies, like Umbra, to significantly disrupt markets and industries on Earth by orders of magnitude.

Umbra Lab’s spacecraft does not fit into today’s legacy aerospace or the new space mold for Earth observation platforms. In today's satellite imaging ecosystem, traditional satellites cost hundreds of millions of dollars, sacrificing high costs in exchange for high resolution (1 meter). Newer smallsat-based platforms sacrifice image resolution in exchange for much lower costs. Limited image resolution has been a key shortfall of small/cube satellites ability to disrupt legacy and terrestrial Earth imaging.

 Umbra's software defined radar electronics package

Umbra's software defined radar electronics package

Umbra refused to make that performance sacrifice. Their new imaging capability offers a significant improvement over the best legacy sensor with recurring costs in the single digit millions. We believe .25 x .25 meter imagery is not only disruptive to both SAR and optical satellites but likely the terrestrial drone industry as well.

Umbra Lab’s software defined radar, powerful antenna, and digital signal processor provides a groundbreaking power aperture area and launch volume:

  • NESZ: ≤ -18 dB

  • Range Resolution ≥0.25m

  • Azimuth Resolution ≥0.10m

This level of accuracy can be traded off for faster revisit time, giving customers a range of choices for what kind of data they need. That choice creates a wide range of applications including, but certainly not limited to:

  • Supply Chain Surveillance

  • Maritime Compliance

  • Search & Rescue

  • Precision Farming

  • Defense and Security

Their 1200+ MHz radar electronics and refusal to pursue analytics as part of their business model has garnered tremendous customer support and led to last year's oversubscribed round. David Langan, the co-founder and CEO of Umbra Lab, has over a decade supporting advanced space systems and is a space-based radar subject matter expert. David is one of the most diligent founders we have come across.

Our co-investors in Umbra include: Crosscut Ventures, Hemisphere Ventures, Wilderness Ventures, Champion Hill Labs and a future Umbra Lab customer.