In-space propulsion developer Benchmark Space Systems closes $33M in new funding

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Benchmark Space Systems, a Vermont-based developer of in-space propulsion products, has raised $33.2 million in new funding, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Committee.

The Series B capital will be used to help the company manufacture at-scale and deliver on the more than 220 propulsion systems in its backlog, Benchmark CEO Ryan McDevitt told TechCrunch.

“[The funding] was really around, how do we set ourselves up so that we have the capital that we need to go deliver on these contracts?” he said. He added that the scale-up will help attract new customers, satellite manufacturers or owner-operators that are also ramping up manufacturing and are looking for partners that can match that output.

“If our customers are going out and building new factories and ramping up so that they can go from 10 units a year to 100 units a year, we have to do the same,” he said.

To further boost its manufacturing capabilities, Benchmark also just moved into a new 40,000-square-foot office, testing and production space in Burlington, Vermont. It’s a considerable upgrade from its previous headquarters, which was 8,000 square-feet divided between three offices, McDevitt said.

The news comes just a few weeks after the company announced that it had reduced its 100-person workforce by around 15%. At the time, McDevitt told CNBC in a statement that the layoffs were due to the company “transitioning from research and development to a production-focused team.”

Benchmark designs and manufactures chemical, electric and hybrid propulsion systems. It got its start developing a range of low-toxicity — sometimes called “green” — chemical propellant systems that are safe to handle in a normal lab setting.

The six-year-old company started manufacturing electric and hybrid systems after acquiring Alameda Applied Science Corp.’s electric propulsion tech last August. That deal has already started to pay off, with Benchmark announcing in March that it had closed contracts for nearly two dozen metal plasma thrusters, with the bulk of the first orders to be delivered this year.

The company has signed deals with The Exploration Company, a European startup developing a reusable orbital capsule, U.K. in-space manufacturing startup Space Forge, orbital refueling startup Orbit Fab and in-space transportation provider Spaceflight Inc., which was acquired by Firefly Aerospace.

The new capital brings Benchmark’s total funding to date to over $56 million. McDevitt said the company will name its investors in a future announcement.

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