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SMi Global MilSatCom 2019

Orbion secures Series A funding to mass-produce plasma thrusters for satellite constellations

(30 August 2019 - Orbion) Orbion Space Technology, developer of next-generation smallsat propulsion systems, today announced it has raised $9.2M in Series A funding led by Material Impact, a venture capital firm focused on translating early stage, innovative materials technologies into products and companies that solve real-world problems.

Other participants in the round include Invest Michigan, Invest Detroit, Wakestream Ventures, Ann Arbor SPARK, and Boomerang Catapult.

The financing comes at a crucial moment for Orbion and the space market—just last year, the company announced plans to manufacture and mass-produce the first-ever Hall-effect plasma thrusters for small satellites, dubbed the Orbion Aurora system. Aurora is the highest-performing system of its kind in the world, and will deliver the accelerated access and efficiency gains that New Space operators need to drive greater ROI for smallsat missions. Also in the last year, dozens of companies and government defense agencies announced plans to build and launch thousands of new small satellites—all of which will require plasma thrusters.

Unique to Orbion is their end-to-end approach to manufacturing, which integrates high-performance space technology, robotic assembly-line integration, and acceptance testing perfected in high-volume production environments. This model adapts key techniques and infrastructure developed in the tactical missile industry.

“We at Material Impact are proud to be part of the Orbion team. We believe Orbion’s thruster technology will propel small satellites into a booming market driven by applications ranging from high-speed mobile communications to high-resolution imaging,” said Adam Sharkawy, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Material Impact. “While there is also a great deal of interest in shoebox-sized cubesats, we believe that the small satellites in the 100 kg range that the Orbion thrusters can currently propel will represent the workhorse applications with the largest growth in the next 5-10 years. As a result, the smallsat market is projected to exceed $62B by 2030.”

Dr. Brad King, CEO of Orbion Space Technology, said: “We’re honored to have the financial support and expertise of such key investors as Material Impact to power our progress. It’s an exciting milestone in our mission to bring modern mass-manufacturing to space technology and help New Space operators unlock their full potential.”

Smallsat launches are projected to increase at an unprecedented rate in the coming years, but the supplier base for key technologies is not yet mature enough to support the projected growth. Many of the components on new small satellites, such as solar cells, batteries, and computers, can be leveraged from large established terrestrial markets and can easily satisfy the projected growth. Propulsion, however, is a “space-only” technology that has no terrestrial counterpart and, until Orbion, there was no supplier capable of delivering hundreds or thousands of thrusters for satellites.

In addition to their unique ability to manufacture at-scale, Orbion’s approach has the potential to save hundreds of millions of dollars for these operators by reducing propulsion system mass by 3X while improving the imaging, lifespan, orbit control and re-entry. And unlike traditional testing that takes 6-8 months of testing before delivery, Orbion’s manufacturing approach aims to build and ship thrusters within just 6-8 days of order.

About Orbion Space Technology

Orbion Space Technology develops revolutionary propulsion systems that allow small satellites to achieve more in space environments, including the first-ever Hall-effect plasma thruster designed expressly for mass production. Orbion not only designs and develops these systems, but innovates novel techniques and processes for mass-manufacture to meet the rising demands of New Space customers. The team brings a wealth of expertise across areas such as plasma thrusters, space electronics, orbital mechanics, manufacturing, and space business.

About Material Impact

Material Impact is a venture capital fund that invests in building companies which transform material technologies into products that make an impact on real world problems. Material Impact is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts.