Houghton-based Orbion Space Technology, a developer of next generation small satellite propulsion solutions, today announced it raised $20 million in series B funding in an oversubscribed round led by California-based Inventus Capital Partners.
With Orbion’s Aurora Hall-effect plasma thruster system seeing widespread market acceptance, the company has outgrown its existing manufacturing infrastructure.
“We have built and are operating a state-of-the-art space manufacturing factory, but due to unprecedented market demand we are at a point that additional capital will help us to scale our production capacity to 100s of units per year with no sacrifice in quality,” says Brad King, co-founder and CEO of Orbion.
The system utilizes the spacecraft’s electrical power to provide a gentle and fuel-efficient thrust that is requires by commercial government application and deep-space science missions. It is used to raise the orbit altitude, avoid collisions, and de-orbit the spacecraft at the end of life.
Orbion’s manufacturing approach combines practice developed in the automotive and tactical missile industries to achieve the optimal combination of capacity, high-reliability, and low-cost. Electric propulsion systems are increasingly in-demand, marked by partnerships the company has recently entered, including a research contract with the Department of Defense, and a $14.1 million plus contract with Colorado-based satellite supplier Blue Canyon.
King says it is important for both the quality of the finished product and customer service to own the whole manufacturing process.
“We considered various business models that employed contract manufacturers to build our thrusters, but at the end of the day the thruster carries an Orbion brand and our customers need to know that it was built entirely by experts in the field,” he says.
“The space game is changing. Large satellites are being replaced by a multitude of nano-satellites; just like the PCs replaced mainframes. Orbion is providing these nano-satellites maneuverability to get into more precise orbits and stay there longer,” says Kanwal Rekhi, managing director of Inventus Capital Partners in Burlingame, south of San Francisco.