From: Benchmark Space Systems
Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Small satellite propulsion technology developer Benchmark Space Systems announced it is well positioned to launch and scale now, thanks to a recent round of venture capital seed funding. The groundbreaking team of aerospace engineers, who are nurturing their company’s growth through their involvement with the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET) and the University of Vermont’s innovation programs, develops chemical propulsion systems for small satellites that enable them to be remotely steered in space.
As space exploration and the desire to connect the world digitally via satellites increases, so too does the need to manage the positioning of the satellites and mitigate the risk they pose to the space ecosystem. When large, billion dollar satellites coexist in space with thousands of small satellites, the opportunity for collision increases. The results range from costly to hazardous.
“For several years now, Benchmark Space Systems has been working on a breakthrough solution that allows small satellites, including CubeSats [cube satellites], to be relocated using a propulsion system that is safe, reliable, and inexpensive,” said Ryan McDevitt, co-founder and CEO of Benchmark Space Systems. “Colliding satellites in space produces hazardous debris and impacts the operations of vital communication, defense and navigation satellites. Our product offers a way to safely steer CubeSats and other small satellites amongst other space traffic to prevent collisions and reduce harmful waste.”
In addition to making small satellites safer, Benchmark Space’s propulsion systems can significantly increase the value of each satellite by increasing the amount of time they stay in space.
“Small satellites are typically launched into low altitude orbits,” explains McDevitt. “At those altitudes, a small satellite will deorbit and burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere in a few years or even as little as a few months. Our DFAST propulsion system has the potential to double the life expectancy of a small satellite.”
With the average cost to build, launch, and manage each small satellite mission running over $750,000, increasing the mission duration is an important benefit for customers.
“Benchmark Space is a great example of why Vermont invested in VCET’s Vermont Seed Capital Fund,” said Vermont’s U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy. “Early investment support for Benchmark Space has allowed the company to develop the next generation space technology to address one of the greatest hazards to satellites: space junk. Benchmark is an industry leader in space technology, and that is good for Vermont and our country.”
Leahy added, “With this latest round of seed-stage funding, this team is in the right place at the right time to uniquely serve the top 20 global small satellite operators and several government agencies. This next-generation space technology will be used globally. It’s being developed right here in Vermont, and that’s incredibly exciting.”
Benchmark Space Systems has used its funding to invest in the hiring of two engineers. Joining the company are Paul Shepherd, Ph.D. in electrical engineering, and previously an engineer for Sonos; and Matt Walton, B.S. in mechanical engineering, and recent graduate from the University of Vermont. Expert space and business advisers have been added that include former NASA Chief Technologist Mason Peck and serial venture-backed CEO Everett McGinley.
“Quite literally, two rocket scientists walked thru our doorway,” said David Bradbury, president of VCET. “This is what we do at VCET: we support entrepreneurs - from rocket scientists to coders to beverage makers - and help them pull together the necessary elements to get them to the next level of success from wherever they are in the growth stage. It’s been extremely rewarding to watch and support the Benchmark Space team take off and develop proprietary capabilities that solve the rapidly growing challenges with space traffic, debris and life expectancy of satellites.”
Click here for the latest monthly segment on VCET with Burlington’s MyChamplainValley, featuring McDevitt and Benchmark Space Systems.
About Benchmark Space Systems
Benchmark Space Systems is working toward a future where small satellites provide easy access to space for businesses, scientists, and universities. From offices in South Burlington, VT, Benchmark Space serves customers around the world with innovative space technologies. Visit www.benchmark-space.com and follow @benchmarkspace
Advancing innovation and entrepreneurship, the non-profit Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET) provides expert business mentoring, technology professional networking, three coworking and accelerator facilities in Middlebury and Burlington, innovation programs, and early stage venture capital. VCET manages the Vermont Seed Capital Fund, LP, a revolving $5 million venture capital investment fund. In 2013, VCET was named #11 globally and #5 in the U.S. by the UBI Index. Visit www.vcet.co, follow @VCET and listen to #StartHere podcast.
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