Los Angeles’ reusable rocket scene is blowing up, with firms like Rocket Lab, Relativity Space, Varda and Masten Space Systems taking SpaceX’s lead and developing spacecraft that can be launched multiple times. But until recently, there weren’t many firms focused on recycling satellites.
Enter Outpost, a Santa Monica-based maker that’s trying to make the small satellite market more sustainable. Outpost announced Tuesday it has raised $7.1 million in a seed round led by Moonshots Capital. The company will use the funding to continue building its technology and hire more talent both locally and remotely.
Outpost is developing a precision landing technology that lets orbiters return to Earth after delivering their payloads. The satellites are also equipped with heat shields, similar to those used in reusable rockets, that will protect it from burning up when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere. There’s also a cute, autonomously-controlled paraglider that will ferry the satellite to its proper destination once it's closer to the ground.
“We’re a space company, but our mission is really to make Earth a sustainable home forever,” Outpost CEO Jason Dunn said in a LinkedIn post announcing the company’s launch.
“We believe that extending work and life to space can help us do that,” Dunn said. “We extend the life of a satellite by bringing it home, and refurbishing it so it can fly again instead of being disposed of.”
Alongside Austin-based Moonshots Capital, Los Angeles’ Starburst Ventures (the investing fund affiliated with Starburst Aerospace), Draper Associates, Starlight Ventures, Kittyhawk Ventures and AIR Capital joined the round.
“The reason we're excited to work with Jason is that [Outpost] are the only one working on reusability for satellites," Starburst Ventures Partner Benjamin Zeitoun told dot.LA. "Even for people in the space industry, it is not obvious that this is something you can do. They're building the next SpaceX of satellites, in Santa Monica."
Dunn co-founded Made in Space, a Florida-based company that was one of the first to create a 3D-printer that could work in space. Founded in 2010, Made in Space was courted by NASA to put its first 3D printer on the International Space Station for a test run in 2014.
Now, Dunn wants to make the satellite launch industry a little bit greener.
“Outpost is reimagining, from first principles, how a satellite mission would change if the satellite were reusable,” Dunn said in a statement Tuesday.
Zeitoun told dot.LA Dunn’s prior experience with Made in Space was one reason Starburst Ventures greenlit the investment in Outpost.
Dunn’s prior work showed “that he's able to start a company, that he's able to prove thought leadership in the industry,” Zeitoun added. “It's going to also help him attract talent [and] help him be more credible with some of the first customers, some of the first partners, whether they're private or government,” he said.