Xona Space Systems, a California-based firm, has secured $8 million to fully finance an orbital demonstration of its navigation payload next year, with the goal of providing a viable alternative to GPS as well as numerous global navigation satellite systems. The investment round was led by MaC Venture Capital, an early-stage investor, and Seraphim Space Investment Trust, which is a fund that was newly listed on London Stock Exchange.
According to Xona CEO Brian Manning, the company now has a total capital of $10 million, including $1 million from the pre-seed phase and an additional $1 million in grants. He wouldn’t say who’s building the test satellite, but he did say it’ll show off hardware capabilities as well as “software and test performance in numerous user applications.”
The spacecraft has secured a rideshare mission with SpaceX Falcon 9 in mid-2022, which Xona claims would be the first-ever launch of a dedicated commercial positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) satellite. According to Manning, the demo satellite becomes part of a 300-cubesat network that Xona plans to launch in 2023.
Xona’s PNT services promise ten times higher accuracy than regular GNSS, transmitted through encrypted signals, operating in a far lower orbit than the GPS and comparable satellite navigation systems. According to the company, poor weather, which can hinder ground-based light detection and ranging (LIDAR) systems for PNT, will not harm Xona’s satellites.
According to Xona, this is especially essential for the burgeoning autonomous vehicle sector. According to the USDOT (The United States Department of Transportation) study, more than 70% of US highways live in snowy areas, and over 70% of the population lives in snowy areas. “GPS is immensely dependent and dependant on the world – much more than it realizes,” Manning added. He said that the company is still working on manufacturing and deployment deals for the rest of the constellation. It is “actively coordinating” with authorities to get the licenses it needs to deploy the network on schedule.
According to Xona’s September 22 financing release, the company successfully evaluated its navigation system in a ground-centered demonstration earlier this year. Following these successful demos, the additional funding will be used to expand its laboratory facilities, allowing for greater development, on-site testing, and manufacturing.
Xona’s recent fundraising round included Toyota Ventures, the carmaker’s standalone venture capital organization, as well as Daniel Ammann, the co-founder of Swiss chipmaker u-blox, as well as Ryan Johnson, the former CEO of Earth observation provider BlackBridge. The fundraising was also sponsored by early-stage investors Stellar Solutions and 1517 Fund.
In recent years, plenty of new PNT technologies have arisen to supplement and, in some cases, replace conventional GNSS solutions. Since 2016, Satelles, based in Washington, has been offering guaranteed PNT solutions to back up GNSS over Iridium’s LEO satellites.