Small Satellite Launch Startup ABL Space System Raises $49M, First Mission Set for 2021

Small Satellite Launch Startup ABL Space System Raises $49M, First Mission Set for 2021

ABL Space Systems, a startup building low-cost launch vehicles for small satellites, announced that it raised over $90 million and plans to launch its first orbital mission by the first quarter of next year.

The El Segundo-based company secured $44.5 million in Air Force contracts and another $49 million in private funds led by Ethan Batraski at Venrock with participation from New Science Ventures, Lynett Capital, and Lockheed Martin Ventures.

Their launch vehicle, the RS1 aims to carry up to 1,350 kg into low Earth orbit — around 200 kilometer above the Earth. Early testing has been successful with the vehicle's performance hitting all its targets, the company said.

"We've completed hundreds of engine, stage, and ground system tests across multiple deployments to unimproved sites. All were performed on generator power with fully self-sufficient systems," said Dan Piemont, ABL founder and CFO.

The company's GSO system, which it uses to launch the RS1, is marketed as an easy way to launch satellites on-demand. That system employs shipping containers and a concrete pad to set up a launch. The simple infrastructure cuts down on the need for the large teams employed by traditional satellite companies.

ABL is among a number of U.S. rocket builders like Long Beach-based Rocket Lab and Hawthorne-based SpaceX that are competing in the growing small satellite market.

As the company ramps up toward their launch, it has expanded its footprint leasing additional propulsion test facilities at Mojave Air and Space Port and moved its operations into a 60,000 square foot production facility in El Segundo.

The RS1 satellite launch vehicle team, now made up of 80 engineers, designers and production experts.

The price tag for a launch is $12 million.

ABL founder and Chief Financial Officer Dan Piemont said these "large capacity, fit-for-purpose resilient launch system" offer commercial and government customers "value."

The company shut down during the first month of the pandemic slowing down production and testing, but it resumed operations shortly after.

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Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

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