Prime Movers Lab
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Prime Movers Lab

Why We Invested in Alpha Insights

The world’s most advanced SAR technology.

We are thrilled to announce that we are leading a financing round for Alpha Insights, to help them deliver the world’s most advanced, space-based Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technology.

Space-based SAR allows operators to get highly detailed imaging data of Earth but unlike optical satellite imaging (e.g. Planet Labs) SAR works at night, through clouds, and through trees. Here is a helpful blog post that goes over how the technology works and why it’s so valuable: What is SAR?

Governments and defense organizations have been building and operating billion-dollar SAR satellites for decades because of these unique and valuable capabilities. However, as with many New Space opportunities, the combination of decreasing launch costs and improved computational power has opened the door for new commercial providers. We’ve been watching this sector closely as we strongly believe that there will be massive dual-use (defense-focused & commercially-focused) SAR companies built this decade. We finally found the company we had been looking for when we met Scott and Alpha Insights.

The CEO of Alpha Insights, Scott Larson, is a serial entrepreneur who has founded a number of space companies including Urthecast, which he took public in 2013, and Helioswire, which was acquired by Echostar. Scott’s vision for the company, his proven track record, and the pedigree of the team is exactly what we look for in our founding teams.

However, it was their technology and its readiness level that made this such a unique opportunity. The initial IP behind Alpha Insights was developed by Scott’s previous company Urthecast in the years after he left the company. Urthecast invested over $65mm into their SAR program but unfortunately, they went into bankruptcy protection before bringing it to market. Alpha Insights was able to acquire this IP and start the company with a near demo-mission-ready technology.

Alpha Insights uses a phased-array antenna that allows a single payload to cover large swaths of area (400kms) in L band and then “zoom in” with high-resolution (0.5m) X band frequencies. The information is processed on-board, allowing them to self-tip-and-cue and provide real-time information to operators. For those that are non-fluent in ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) this translates to groundbreaking capabilities for customers. One former senior Air Force official that we consulted, described this as having the ability to be the military’s first “tactical space asset”. Meaning it doesn’t just help you do reconnaissance and planning but can actually be used by troops on the ground in real-time — a true paradigm shift in how defense utilizes space assets. A Canadian government customer that has spoken with all of the existing commercial SAR providers said that Alpha Insights was a generation ahead of anyone else in their capabilities. We’ve been happy to see this validated by a recent $4mm order by a confidential customer.

In addition to having a massive impact in supporting US and allied defense forces, we see large commercial markets forming across infrastructure monitoring, marine surveillance and environmental monitoring as commercial SAR data finally becomes available. We are proud to be partnering with Scott and the rest of the Alpha Insights team in this important work.

Prime Movers Lab invests in breakthrough scientific startups founded by Prime Movers, the inventors who transform billions of lives. We invest in seed-stage companies reinventing energy, transportation, infrastructure, manufacturing, human augmentation and agriculture.

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