AUCKLAND, New Zealand, April 21, 2021 – Astrix Astronautics, a start-up developing high-performance power systems for small spacecraft, has raised $500,000 in a pre-seed funding round led by Outset Ventures (formerly Level Two Ventures), with support from Icehouse Ventures, Sir Stephen Tindall’s K1W1 and Rocket Lab.
Founded by University of Auckland science and engineering students Fia Jones, alongside Will Hunter and Max Daniels, Astrix’ inflatable solar array technology combines power generation and storage into one structure, harnessing energy from the sun to provide an unparalleled level of power generation for small satellites.
The Astrix investment marks the first funding round led by Outset Ventures and is the sixth investment from its $10 million Deep Technology fund.
The funds will be used to build a space-ready prototype of the Astrix power system, scheduled for its first launch in July on a Rocket Lab satellite rideshare mission to test its viability at an altitude of 500km. The funds will also be used for further research and development.
Astrix’s technology boasts a collection of solar panels, stored within a lightweight power system that inflates once the small spacecraft is launched, providing up to 300W/kg of electricity for small satellites weighing up to 500kg, which CEO Fia Jones says provides more than double the amount of power currently available for such satellites.
The company’s lighter, flexible inflatable structures are used to deploy the solar panels, replacing the traditional, more bulky, less reliable, mechanical structures that involve an increasing number of multiple moving parts as more panels are added.
And while inflatable structures have been used in space for a number of decades, they have not yet been developed to power systems for smaller spacecraft. And Astrix is aiming to fill this gap.
“We are very grateful for the funding and support provided by the team at Outset Ventures,” says Ms Jones, who started developing the technology two years ago at the age of 19, while studying physics and participating in the university’s Auckland Programme for Space Systems.
“The incredible network of investors and mentors we’ve met through Outset Ventures has been invaluable as we learn the ropes of starting a new business while testing new power systems that will make space missions more efficient and successful.”
The company’s upcoming space launch follows a successful test of its technology earlier this year within a vacuum chamber at Rocket Labs’ Auckland facilities, where Astrix has been based since its formation in February.
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck, who sits on the Astrix advisory board says, “The pace of the space industry is rapidly accelerating and we need more companies like Astrix setting out to help the thousands of businesses relying on satellites to advance their missions and crack some of the world’s pressing problems like climate change and food scarcity.
“It is exciting to see the next generation of entrepreneurs like Fia growing global space startups from New Zealand.”
Astrix will join three other aerospace companies in residence at Outset Ventures and will be the first startup to shift into the newly refurbished laboratory spaces once the renovations are scheduled for completion in July.
“Fia is a passionate entrepreneur with a formidable drive who is developing an elegant solution to a broad problem faced by a massive growth space industry,” says Outset Ventures CEO Imche Fourie. “We are excited to be supporting the dynamic Astrix team and welcome the company into our facilities, where they join other exceptional entrepreneurs, investors and mentors tackling global challenges who are part of New Zealand’s fast-growing deep tech community.”
A 2021 Euroconsult report, anticipates the global small satellite manufacturing and launch market to more than triple over the next decade, to $US 54 billion, with a predicted 14,000 “smallsats” weighing up to 500kg launched by 2030.
21 April 2021.