Lumen Orbit, a startup that aims to speed up downlink times by processing data in space, is emerging from stealth today with $2.4M in funding. 

Lumen 101: The Seattle-based startup was founded in December when the three cofounders—Ezra Feilden, Philip Johnston, and Adi Oltean—banded together to fix the slow downlink speeds they encountered during their prior work in the space industry. 

“I’ve been there in the control room when we’ve been commissioning a few different satellites and I saw this problem first hand, having to wait for two or three hours until the next pass over the ground station and in those short windows being able to downlink a few hundred kilobytes of data,” Feilden, a former engineer at Airbus Defence and Space, told Payload. “That really hammered it home how disconnected most of our satellites are most of the time”

How it works: The company’s planned 300-bird constellation will fly in VLEO underneath customer sats to act as an “in-orbit ground station,” Johnston said.

“Right now it can take days to download very small amounts of data because you need to be above a ground station, so we’re trying to solve that problem…by providing real-time or near-real time downlink for customers and…by offering some edge computing,” Johnston told Payload. “What that means is we can just downlink the relevant findings from the data rather than downlinking all the data.”

The top intended customer for the tech is EO constellations, which collect a huge amount of images and data, most of which aren’t that interesting in their raw form, said Feilden. But analyzing the images in-orbit and only sending findings to Earth could dramatically reduce the amount of information that needs to be beamed down. 

Funding details: The round, which was three-times oversubscribed, included participation from eight firms, plus more than a dozen angel investors. Funds that participated in the raise include Nebular.vc, Caffeinated Capital VC, Plug & Play VC, Everywhere Ventures, Tiny.vc, Sterling Road VC, Pareto Holding VC, and Foreword.vc. 

What’s next: The startup is aiming to launch its one-year demo mission to prove out the technology in May 2025 aboard a SpaceX rideshare mission. 

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