Booz Allen Ventures Invests in Albedo's groundbreaking VLEO satellite technology

by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX)
Jan 24, 2024

Booz Allen Hamilton (NYSE: BAH) has announced a strategic investment through its venture capital arm, Booz Allen Ventures, LLC, in Albedo. This investment marks a significant step in the deployment of Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO) satellite constellations, offering ultra-high resolution commercial imagery from space.

Chris Bogdan, executive vice president at Booz Allen and leader of the firm's Space business, emphasized the importance of this venture: "This is one of the most forward-looking space investments Booz Allen has ever made and comes at a critical juncture when space capabilities are needed to solve our nation's greatest challenges-geopolitical competition, regional instability, catastrophic climate change, and more." He further added that the level of detail achievable by Albedo's low-flying satellites, which combine optical and infrared sensor data, is "unprecedented in the commercial market."

The investment in Albedo is Booz Allen Ventures' first space-specific commitment, resonating with the fund's focus on dual-use commercial technology solutions. Travis Bales, managing director of Booz Allen Ventures, highlighted Albedo's innovative approach, merging high-resolution imaging typical of aerial platforms with the global coverage of satellites. This blend, he notes, opens up vast applications across defense, intelligence, climate, infrastructure, agriculture, energy, and urban planning sectors.

Albedo's venture into VLEO, a largely unexplored domain situated halfway between the Earth's surface and Low Earth Orbit, is pioneering. They are the first to commercialize this orbit, offering high-resolution, aerial-quality imagery at a lower cost, expanding space as a critical data source for defense, national security, and civil applications.

Topher Haddad, CEO of Albedo, elaborated on the potential applications of their technology: "Ultra-high-resolution imagery, coupled with thermal infrared, can be leveraged across a breadth of applications, for everything from urban planning and pipeline monitoring to U.S. and allied military operations." Haddad envisions providing users with the clarity needed to act with certainty in various scenarios, from warzones to environmental monitoring.

This investment round also saw participation from Standard Investments, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Shield Capital, Initialized Capital, Y Combinator, Giant Step Capital, Republic Capital, and others.

Booz Allen's investment in Albedo builds upon its extensive history of delivering space solutions to entities like NASA, the intelligence community, and the Department of Defense. The firm's multifaceted support spans over 50 years and includes projects like the International Space Station, NASA's Artemis mission, and the Cybersecurity and Privacy Enterprise Solutions and Services (CyPrESS) contract, along with contributions to U.S. Space Force space constellations and advanced ground space system capabilities for the intelligence community.

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he U.S. (including several domestic companies and labs such as the MIT Lincoln Laboratory), the European Union, Japan, and China have all been pursuing modern VLEO demonstrations. Key advancements have enabled VLEO satellites in the following areas: electric propulsion, navigation, on-board computing, and low cost digital imagery. Some modern VLEO missions of note have been the European Space Agency’s Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer, which was operational from March 2009 until November 2013. It was designed to map Earth’s gravity while operating at an altitude of about 255 km. Next, in 2017, Japan’s JAXA flew its Super Low Altitude Test Satellite which carried sensors and a camera. It completed its mission in 2019. More recently, the European Space Agency awarded the Skimsat program to Thales Alenia Space and Redwire, which aims to reduce the cost of Earth observations by operating in VLEO. Due to these advancements and demonstrations, national security missions will soon be able to use VLEO to unlock higher resolution imagery while also reducing cost. Cost can be reduced by using smaller launchers; using commercially available cameras which don’t require the radiation hardened electronics necessary for operation in higher orbits; and by not requiring large optics to make up for the higher altitudes of LEO. But operating in VLEO isn’t just about higher resolution and cost savings, it also presents a unique mitigation to the growing threat of space debris in LEO.