Benchmark Space Systems wins ThinkVermont Innovation Grant

June 17, 2019

Benchmark Space Systems, a high-technology business in Burlington, has been awarded a $14,500 ThinkVermont Innovation Grant. This grant program is an initiative that responds to the growth needs of Vermont small businesses with 20 or fewer employees by funding innovative strategies that accelerate small business growth.

Founded in 2017 by Ryan McDevitt, Benchmark Space Systems is working towards a future where small satellites will increase access to space. Their products are designed with safety, reliability, and cost-sensitivity in mind. The company constructs two main propulsion systems: its B-125, which is compatible with many larger satellites, and its DFast, which is compatible with many small satellites.

“Benchmark’s unique products extend the operational lives of satellites while also reducing space junk and allowing them to de-orbit safely,” said Joan Goldstein, Department of Economic Development Commissioner. “This grant provides the company the ability to make critical investments in this technology that will further support growth of this emerging industry.”

With the average cost to build, launch, and manage a single small satellite over $750,000, extending the life and safety helps minimize costs. The company designed a system that will give customers a 90% increase in operational life. Specifically, its DFast system has the potential to more than double the life expectancy of a small satellite.

The company has received funding from LaunchCapital, a capital market company supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups. It has also received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I award and has a contract with the U.S. Airforce.  Recently, the company was awarded an SBIR Phase II grant and submitted a NASA Phase I application. Announcements for the NASA Phase I awards are scheduled for June 18.

The ThinkVermont Innovation grant will help them construct new test hardware to assist in the development of its newest micro propulsion system. The objective of this project is to develop a microbalance thrust stand that can be mounted within a vacuum chamber. This grant money provides funds to refine and improve upon its initial design.

Benchmark’s project ultimately will help leverage federal funding and support the growth of the aerospace industry in Vermont. The budget to construct this project is $29,440. The initial $14,940 came from a NASA EPScoR SBIR Phase (0) grant and the remaining $14,500 is through the ThinkVermont Innovation Grant Program.

The company also works with local colleges and universities to help train the next generation of engineers through mentoring and paid internships.

“At Benchmark Space Systems, we’re building hardware for small satellites, and the Think Vermont Innovation Grant is going to help us develop the new test capabilities we need to qualify the next generation of propulsion systems for our commercial and government customers,” said Ryan McDevitt, founder and CEO.  “We’re excited to be a part of Vermont’s aerospace sector, and we’re looking forward to using these test capabilities to support the aerospace work being done at the local colleges, universities, and businesses.”

About the ThinkVermont Innovation Grant Program

The ThinkVermont Innovation Grant Program, proposed by the Scott Administration and passed in partnership with the Legislature, was created to respond to the growth needs of Vermont small businesses with 20 or fewer employees by funding innovative strategies that accelerate small business growth. The grant program allows the State to invest in projects with grants that can be accessed more quickly and with fewer restrictions than traditional federal initiatives. The overarching goal is to support innovative strategies that grow the economy and support vibrant communities while facilitating “testbed” approaches to create reproducible results throughout Vermont. For more information on the ThinkVermont Innovation Grant Program, visit https://thinkvermont.com/2018/10/25/innovation-grant-program/

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