Satellite component supplier Akash Systems raises $14.5 million

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WASHINGTON — Akash Systems, a startup building thermally efficient satellite components, has raised $14.5 million through a combination of venture capital and debt converted into equity. 

The San Francisco-based company raised $10 million of its recent funds through a group of investors that includes prominent space-sector investor Khosla Ventures, Founders Fund (a SpaceX investor), ACME Capital, Correlation Ventures, angel investor Sriram Krishnan and others. The remaining $4.5 million came from bank notes converted from debt into equity. 

Akash Systems builds amplifiers and radios that feature diamond-infused gallium nitride chips. By atomically attaching diamond to chipsets, the company is able to make components that absorb heat inside a satellite, allowing spacecraft to operate more efficiently, according to co-founder and chief executive Felix Ejeckam. 

“The reason why transmitters are slow is ultimately because of waste heat,” Ejeckam said in an interview July 10. “The more you can reduce the heat generated, the more you allow electrons to do better things in the world, in this case very high data rates for information moving from a satellite to Earth, and vice versa.”

Ejeckam said Akash Systems has raised $17.6 million to date. The new funds will enable the company to scale up production at partner facilities, he said. Akash Systems outsources production to about five foundries across the United States, Ejeckam said. 

Founded in 2016, Akash Systems is designing and building amplifiers and radios for satellites of all sizes. Ejeckam said the majority of the company’s customers are in telecommunications, but Earth observation satellites also drive a large amount of demand. 

Akash Systems started selling amplifiers this year, which Ejeckam said range from a few millimeters in size to one square centimeter. Radio sales are slated to start late this year. He said those components range from roughly the size of two credit cards to a toaster, depending on the size of the satellite and its power requirements. 

Akash Systems employ 23 people. The company doesn’t have plans to increase that number in the near term, Ejeckam said.

Akash System hopes to see its technology demonstrated in space for the first time early next year, Ejeckam said. He declined to say what satellite would be the first to include its technology.

Ejeckam said Akash Systems’ diamond-enabled hardware can drop temperatures by 80 to 100 degrees Celsius. That thermal control saves space and means operators can use more efficient satellites, he said.