Gravitics raises $20 million for plans to build space station modules north of Seattle

Gravitics raises $20 million for plans to build space station modules north of Seattle

An artist’s conception shows Gravitics’ StarMax module in Earth orbit. (gravity illustration)

A space company called Gravitics has emerged on the sly with $20 million in seed funding and a plan to build space station modules at a 42,000 square foot facility north of Seattle in Marysville, Wash.

As NASA plans to phase out the International Space Station by 2031, Gravitics and its backers are betting on a rush to launch commercial outposts into low Earth orbit. The operators of these outposts might need contractors to supply the equipment.

Gravitics’ main offering will be an oversized module known as StarMax. The General Purpose Module would provide up to 400 cubic meters (14,000 cu ft) of usable habitable volume, which is nearly half of the International Space Station’s pressurized volume.

Several StarMax modules could be linked together in orbit like Lego blocks.

“We strive to help commercial space station operators succeed,” said Colin Doughan, co-founder and CEO of Gravitics, in a press release. “StarMax offers our customers a scalable volume to accommodate a space station’s growing user base over time. StarMax is the cornerstone of a cislunar, human-centered economy.

The investment group for the newly announced funding round is led by Type One Ventures and also includes Tim Draper of Draper Associates, FJ Labs, The Venture Collective, Helios Capital, Giant Step Capital, Gaingels, Spectre, Manhattan West and Mana Ventures. .

“Gravitics’ case is simple,” said Tarek Waked of Type One Ventures, who joined Gravitics’ board. “Having a scalable space infrastructure that is 100% made in the United States is good for the space industry, good for the country, and is just the start of an effort that will benefit the whole world as space becomes more and more accessible.

Doughan brings nearly two decades of experience in the aerospace industry to the company: he was chief financial officer at Lockheed Martin from 2003 until last January and was a co-founder of Altius Space Machines, which was acquired by Voyager Space. Holdings in 2019.

Other prominent members of the Gravitics team include chief engineer Bill Tandy, a veteran of Ball Aerospace and Jeff Bezos’ space venture Blue Origin; and director of engineering Scott Macklin, a former head of propulsion at Virgin Orbit. Gravitics says its workforce has grown to nearly 40 people, including full-time employees as well as contractors.

Building permits and job postings list Marysville, about 40 miles north of Seattle, as the site of Gravitics’ 42,000 square foot facility for development and initial production. The company says it has already begun assembly of its first StarMax prototype and is preparing to conduct module pressure tests in early 2023.

The ground pressure tests would pave the way for an orbital test mission that has yet to be announced. Pre-orders are taken for the delivery of modules from 2026.

Gravitics is likely to face challenges as it attempts to enter a market alongside major players such as Thales Alenia Space (which manufactures space station modules for Axiom Space); Sierra Space and Blue Origin (working on modules for the Orbital Reef space station); Northrop Grumman (which is developing its own space station concept) and Lockheed Martin (which is part of the Starlab space station project team, led by Nanoracks).

In a TechCrunch interview, Type One’s Waled said he expects SpaceX’s Starship super-rocket – which is still in development – to open up new opportunities for Gravitics in the years to come. “We bet Starship will revolutionize the industry,” he said.

Due to its size, Starship would be the most suitable rocket to launch StarMax modules, but Gravitics says other launchers could also be used.

TechCrunch said Gravitics executives are already talking with development groups in Florida about building a production and integration facility near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center — with an area larger than the Marysville facility. .

More from GeekWire:

#Gravitics #raises #million #plans #build #space #station #modules #north #Seattle

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *