WASHINGTON — Part 4 has raised $26 million in a Collection B spherical that can enable it to speed up manufacturing of its satellite tv for pc electrical propulsion techniques.
The corporate introduced June 11 it raised the spherical led by enterprise capital agency New Science Ventures LLC. The corporate had raised about $20 million in earlier funding rounds.
The El Segundo, California-based firm has developed a plasma propulsion system referred to as Maxwell to be used on small satellites. Sturdy demand for Maxwell after the launch of the primary spacecraft with these thrusters earlier this yr prompted the funding spherical with a view to gas the corporate’s enlargement.
“Quite a lot of clients get extra as soon as they notice that this product is actual and it’s working in area,” Beau Jarvis, chief govt of Part 4, mentioned in an interview. “We obtained much more inbound demand and our workforce has been fairly small up thus far. So as to make extra Maxwell techniques we wanted to boost extra capital.”
Part 4 was launched to New Science Ventures via one other investor, he mentioned. That VC agency has beforehand invested in ABL House Methods, a small launch automobile firm, and PlanetIQ, which is growing a constellation of satellites to gather industrial climate information.
“Part 4 has the administration workforce, core know-how set and product technique to construct a management place within the in-space propulsion sector,” Somu Subramaniam, managing companion of New Science Ventures, in an announcement.
With the brand new funding, Jarvis mentioned Part 4 plans to scale up manufacturing of thruster techniques. “We’re going to triple the manufacturing of Maxwell from now to the primary half of subsequent yr,” he mentioned.
The primary satellites with Maxwell thrusters launched in January, and the corporate now has three techniques in orbit. Jarvis mentioned the shoppers have requested to not be named for now, though Part 4 introduced in 2019 orders from Capella House and Tyvak Nano-Satellite tv for pc Methods. The corporate expects to have as much as eight thrusters in orbit by the top of the yr.
The techniques which are in orbit are working properly. “Our engineering workforce says the information on orbit is as boring as the information within the environmental check facility, which is at all times good,” Jarvis mentioned. “That’s given us the arrogance to construct extra of them.”
These thrusters in orbit use xenon as propellant, however the firm is finding out the usage of alternate options that may present value and mass financial savings. The corporate received a Small Enterprise Innovation Analysis award from the U.S. Air Drive in April to work on a model of Maxwell that makes use of iodine as propellant. Iodine doesn’t require high-pressure vessels for storage and is cheaper than xenon.
Jarvis mentioned the funding spherical will assist work on the iodine-fueled model of Maxwell, together with a brand new vacuum chamber devoted to testing that thruster. “Our workforce proper now’s performing some preliminary testing with the brand new model of the thruster that can deal with iodine. Later this summer time, we’ll be doing our first in chamber assessments with iodine,” he mentioned. If all goes as deliberate, that thruster could be commercially accessible in early 2023.