Benchmark metal plasma thruster fires all four engines in sequence during vacuum chamber tests. Credit: Benchmark Space Systems

WASHINGTON — Benchmark Space Systems announced contracts to sell around two dozen metal plasma thrusters based on technology the Burlington, Vermont-based startup acquired last year.

“These booking are for applications on larger satellites,” Chris Carella, Benchmark chief commercial officer, told SpaceNews at the Satellite 2023 conference here. “It validates the use of this technology for precision maneuvers.”

Benchmark manufactured high-test peroxide chemical thrusters before acquiring Alameda Applied Science Corp.’s electric propulsion technology. Now, Benchmark offers chemical, electric and hybrid propulsion systems.

Docking is one applications for Benchmark’s hybrid propulsion customers.

A satellite would use chemical propulsion to catch up to its docking target and then rely on the metal plasma thruster to fine-tune maneuvers covering the last few inches, Carella said. “You have different thrust levels for different operations,” he added.

New Thrusters

Since acquiring Alameda Applied Science Corp.’s electric propulsion technologies, Benchmark has tested the metal plasma thrusters with various metals propellants. Benchmark also has conducted hot-fire tests of its two newton Lynx bi-propellant thruster, which engineers are now working to qualify for spaceflight.

“We’re going to build 200 of those Lynx thrusters this year and deliver close to 50 engines with those thrusters,” Carella said.

Ryan McDevitt, Benchmark Space Systems CEO, said in a statement, “Benchmark is seeing huge demand for our chemical and hybrid propulsion systems for a variety of missions and maneuvers, including a significant increase in the number of collision avoidance moves satellite operators must make due to growing traffic in busy orbits.”

Leadership Reorganization

With production picking up, Benchmark has reorganized its executive leadership.

Benchmark co-founder Matt Shea moved into the role of chief product officer. Wesley Grove, the former senior operations manager, was named chief operations officer. Jake Teufert, Benchmark’s new chief technology officer, previously served as chief engineer. Carella, who led Benchmark business development and strategy, became the chief commercial officer. And former Redwire executive Kevin DiMarzio is Benchmark’s new business development director.  

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...