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NZ-Dutch startup to send $3.35 million into space

20 Dec 2018
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Investors will soon be sending $3.35 million into space – and helping Kiwi-Dutch startup Dawn Aerospace to make it happen.

Dawn Aerospace has just raised the $3.35 million thanks to the investors in the Netherlands, United States, and New Zealand.

The company develops infinitely reusable rockets that are designed to carry small satellites into space. Each rocket is capable of multiple flights per day.

The company’s propulsion systems also allow small satellites to manoeuvre once they have been launched into space. The propulsion systems are non-toxic and non-cryogenic, unlike most satellite rocket fuels.

Dawn Aerospace says it will use the funds to commercialise its satellite propulsion systems, and begin development of its Mk-II Spaceplane.

The spaceplane, which is scheduled to take flight in 2020, will be the first vehicle to fly to space twice in a single day, says Dawn Aerospace cofounder Stefan Powell.

“It will be the first in a series of reusable spacecraft that will revolutionise access to space in what is an incredibly exciting time for the industry, especially here in New Zealand.”

“Everything we do at Dawn Aerospace is based on high-frequency reusability. If a piece of hardware cannot be reused on the same day, we are not interested. This makes the systems we develop not only cheaper to use, but also cheaper to develop — more reliable and more environmentally-friendly.”

Investment backers include Splunk founder Erik Swan, Icehouse’s Tuhua Ventures, and Derek Handley’s Aera VC.

“We were able to attract investment from New Zealand, Europe, and the USA which tells us there is a global need out there not currently being fulfilled. The round was highly oversubscribed, which was a nice vote of confidence,” says Powell.

The investment will allow Dawn Aerospace to capitalise on growing market opportunities in the small satellite (smallsat) industry.  One recent prediction from Euroconsult puts the launch services industry’s total worth at $32 billion by 2022.

Tuhua Ventures managing partner Robbie Paul says New Zealand has natural advantages in the space industry.

“New Zealand has relatively free air space, a small and forward-thinking Civil Aviation Authority and more recently, thanks to Rocket Lab’s leadership, international recognition as a space nation. The industry could grow into one of NZ’s key export earners.”

Dawn Aerospace was founded by five engineers: Kiwi brothers Stefan and James Powell, Jeroen Wink (Netherlands), Tobias Knop and Robert Werner (Germany).

The company’s primary research, manufacturing and test facilities are located in Auckland and in Delft, The Netherlands.