Akash Systems raises $3.1 million to build its own line of energy-efficient cubesats

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SAN FRANCISCO — Akash Systems, a San Francisco startup that sells RF power amplifiers for satellites, announced Jan. 30 it has raised $3.1 million in seed round funding, which it plans to use to develop its own line of cubesats.

In November, Akash began selling amplifiers with patented integrated circuits made of gallium nitride on a synthetic diamond substrate.

“It’s the first time anyone has been able to use a diamond material to bring down the temperature of the hottest part of the amplifier,” said Felix Ejeckam, Akash founder and chief executive. Akash uses the technology to manufacture compact, lightweight, energy-efficient satellite components, Ejeckam told SpaceNews.

Akash amplifiers are designed to increase data rates for small communications satellites as well as Earth imaging satellites equipped with synthetic aperture radars.

“We will make the world’s most efficient amplifiers, transmitters and satellites to enable the broadest, most cost-efficient access to satellite communications,” Ejeckham said.

Akash plans to use funding from its seed round to “hasten development” of its own satellites and expand its ten-person staff, Ejeckam said.

Already, Akash is working with satellite systems manufacturers to develop the cubesats it plans to begin selling in 2019. Ejeckam declined to name the company’s current space industry partners or customers.

Khosla Ventures, an investor in Rocket Lab and former investor in Skybox Imaging, led Akash’s seed round, which includes Social Capital, an investor in Relativity Space, Data Collective, an investor in Planet, Ruvento Ventures and Backstage Capital.

“Technology is all around us, and the constant use of communication strains our satellite infrastructure more each year,” Sven Strohband, Khosla Ventures partner, said in a statement. “Akash Systems is here to revolutionize satellite communications by creating high-performance components to get ahead of current satellite limitations such as heat generation and efficient cooling.”

Ejeckam is an electrical and computing engineer who invented the gallium nitride-on-diamond technology while working at Group4Labs, a semiconductor wafer company he co-founded in Fremont, California. Element Six, part of the De Beers Group based in Santa Clara, California, purchased Group4Labs in 2013.

In 2016, Ejeckam founded Akash with Ty Mitchell, a materials engineer who previously served as executive vice president and general manager of Cree Inc., a manufacturer of LED lights, power and RF components based in Durham, North Carolina.