Venture capitalists invested in $5.8 billion in 178 commercial space startups worldwide last year, up 38% in dollar terms from the prior year, making 2019 the biggest year for private space investments, according to a new report from venture capital firm Space Angels.
U.S. billionaire-backed startups Blue Origin and SpaceX accounted for about 41% of the dollar investments, which extended to space ventures in China and the United Kingdom. More investors also sought to get in on companies at later stages.
“We believe this reflects a healthy maturation of the entrepreneurial space ecosystem as early-stage companies graduate from concept to growth,” CEO Chad Anderson said in an email that accompanied the report.
mazon cofounder Jeff Bezos invested about $1.4 billion into his company, raising the capital by selling shares of Amazon stock, estimates the report. Elon Musk’s SpaceX wasn’t far behind—the company raised a little over $1 billion in 2019 in series J, K and L rounds, valuing the company at over $33 billion, according to Pitchbook. Satellite internet firm OneWeb also raised over $1 billion in funds, led by Softbank Group and Grupo Salinas.
The United States is still the biggest country for space investments, with 55% of the year’s total funding going to American-headquartered firms. Space startups in the U.K. pulled in about 24% of 2019’s total funds. That country has seen increased activity in the sector over the past few years and a launch complex is currently being built in Scotland.
The single largest funding round outside of the U.S., though, came from China, with Alibab-backed Qianxun SI pulling in a $141 million series A round in October, largely from Chinese state-owned firms. The company is developing a satellite positioning system for the internet of things to obtain location accuracy to the centimeter.
In terms of industry sector, funds were about evenly split between the launch and satellite sectors, with Earth observation being the biggest single application for satellites, followed by satellite manufacturing and then communications. In terms of deal volume, though, about three quarters of the rounds were geared towards the satellite sector.
Since 2009, there have been about $25.7 billion worth of investments in the space startup sector, the report says, with the numbers accelerating over the past several years. All told, there have been about 535 startups that have received funding since 2009, but with the growth of the industry internationally that number is expected to increase.