WASHINGTON — Orbion Space Technology, a Michigan-based supplier of electric propulsion for small satellites, announced June 24 it has raised $20 million in Series B funding.

The new funding is to scale up production of plasma thrusters for small satellites, the company said. Orbion’s Aurora propulsion system uses the satellite’s electrical power to generate thrust. 

The company is looking to ramp up production to hundreds of units per year to meet demand from commercial constellations and from the U.S. government, a spokesman said. Orbion is under contract to supply four Aurora propulsion systems to Blue Canyon Technologies for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Blackjack satellites. The company won a U.S. Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to study the application of plasma thrusters in military satellites. 

Satellites’ propulsion systems are used to raise the orbit altitude, avoid in-space collisions and de-orbit the spacecraft at end of life.

Orbion’s co-founder and CEO Brad King told SpaceNews the company is looking to become more vertically integrated and less reliant on contract manufacturing partners to build flight hardware.  

“We strongly believe that it is crucial that the thruster is built by thruster experts — not simply manufacturers who are following instructions to replicate devices that they don’t understand,” King said. 

“By building our own products we also avoid having a third-party in the cost structure and can be more responsive to our customers since contract manufacturers can induce delays in order schedules if they are busy building other things,” he added.

Orbion is now operating its own thruster factory, said King, “but the Series B capital allows us to enter the next phase of factory buildout.”

The new funding round was led by Inventus Capital Partners, Material Impact, Beringea and Wakestream Ventures.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...