ÅAC Clyde raises $9 million amid hiring spree

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LAS VEGAS — Small satellite and component builder ÅAC Clyde raised 82.5 million Swedish krona ($9 million), providing capital for the company as it increases its headcount by around 50 percent.

Uppsala, Sweden-based ÅAC Clyde announced the capital raise June 10 from a mix of new and existing investors.

Craig Clark, chief strategy officer at ÅAC Clyde, said the company is hiring more staff this year to support a backlog of smallsat business for customers who are finalizing decisions on what spacecraft they want.

“Our pipeline has developed, and because of that we need to make sure we are staffed up correctly to take advantage of that,” he said in an interview.

ÅAC Clyde recently received a contract from Orbcomm of Rochelle Park, New Jersey, to build and operate two cubesats for Automatic Identification System ship-tracking. Clark said that 54 million krona project, and building subsystems for other satellites is driving the need for more staff.

Clark said ÅAC Clyde currently employs around 100 people, and expects to hire 40 to 50 more people across for its Sweden, Scotland and England locations by the end of the year.

“If all goes as planned, by the start of next year we should have grown by about 50 percent in terms of staff,” he said.

ÅAC Clyde builds small satellites up to 50 kilograms in mass. The company generated 14.9 million krona in sales for the first three months of 2019, down slightly from 16.4 million krona the same time last year.

ÅAC Clyde sales are expected to improve as the year continues, according to a May 9 report from Edison Investment Research. The research firm emphasized the need for more staff at ÅAC Clyde to support larger production volumes.

“Management must now focus on attracting key personnel with the talents and skills to enable it to ramp up production as new satellite orders are obtained, including what are expected to be the first constellation orders,” Edison wrote.

In addition to supporting backlogged work, Clark said the new employees will also work on a next-generation platform designed for faster build times. Clark said ÅAC Clyde can build up to eight satellites a month at full capacity, provided the satellites are identical. Most are custom built, however, he said, resulting in a smaller number built.

The new product development will enable ÅAC Clyde to “massively ramp” production levels by reducing the time needed to integrate satellites, he said.

“We are of the opinion that if somebody wants to build 100, 200 or a thousand satellites, the best way is to get the design right from a production point of view,” Clark said. “If you can make a 3U cubesat in a couple of days on a bench, and then quickly test, you can build one satellite per bench in one week. If you’ve got 20 benches, then you’re doing 20 satellites a week. You don’t need a massive facility to do that; your turnaround time per station is a lot faster because your technology is right.”

Clark said ÅAC Clyde wants to have a presence in the United States once it is a larger company. ÅAC Clyde could even become a U.S. company at some point, he said, but added that no timeline exists for when that might happen.