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  • Satellite Evolution

Benchmark Space Systems fires up metal plasma and bi-prop thruster production

Benchmark Space Systems has signed contracts for nearly two dozen new electric metal plasma thrusters (MPTs), with some set to play a key role in upcoming, unnamed in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing (ISAM) satellite docking demonstration missions.

The bulk of Benchmark’s first MPT orders will be delivered this year, signaling intensifying demand for hybrid propulsion capabilities aboard commercial and government missions in space. Just six months into the acquisition of Alameda Applied Sciences Corp.’s AASC’s MPT technology, Benchmark has adapted the unique electric propulsion system to meet a broad range of in-space mission applications, including ISAM, refueling, and precision docking and spacecraft inspections.

Benchmark is fresh off highly successful test chamber firings of its metal plasma thrusters, with a variety of metal propellants, and hot fire tests of its 2 Newton Lynx thruster, in preparation for a range of chemical, electric and hybrid powered missions. Engineer Matt Walton has led the development of the Lynx thruster, a smaller-scaled version of the space-proven 22 Newton ‘Ocelot’. As the Ocelot thrusters perform critical orbit raise operations in space, the smaller Lynx is being readied for 2023 production deliveries through a robust qualification campaign at Benchmark’s Pleasanton, CA facility.

Benchmark combines the electric metal plasma thrusters with its high-test peroxide (HTP)-powered chemical propulsion systems to provide satellite and mission operators with go-fast and precision mobility capabilities in a non-toxic hybrid solution capable of enabling everything from station keeping and pointing of mesh networks to collision avoidance maneuvers. The company plans to produce at least 200 of its Lynx bi-propellant (HTP + fuel) thrusters this year to meet increasing demand for low Earth orbit (LEO) and cislunar missions.

“Benchmark is seeing huge demand for our chemical and hybrid propulsion systems for a variety of missions and maneuvers, including a significant increase in the number of collision avoidance moves satellite operators must make due to growing traffic in busy orbits,” said Ryan McDevitt, Benchmark Space Systems CEO. “Operators no longer have to choose between electric or chemical propulsion and possibly compromise their ultimate mission objectives. Benchmark hybrid offers mobility without compromise.”

Benchmark continues to innovate and collaborate in the assessment and thoughtful sourcing and integration of new propellants to meet both technical and geopolitical requirements, especially in support of government operations. The accessibility of HTP and the team’s proven ability to rapidly integrate and deploy new high-thrust, long burn duration engines.

Benchmark also announced the realignment of key members of its senior executive team, naming Chris Carella to Chief Commercial Officer, following his highly successful stint as Executive Vice President of Business Development and Strategy. Carella, who joined Benchmark in 2018, will lead Benchmark’s sales, marketing, and mission concepts teams, with a high-level focus on organizational growth and long-term strategic capabilities, product roadmaps and partnerships.

“We are going to explore everything that advances our non-toxic propulsion portfolio,” said Carella. “And we are thrilled to see the commercial and government markets respond so enthusiastically to Benchmark’s cutting-edge solutions, innovations and leadership with contracts that are already redefining in-space mobility in support of critical missions.”

Other key appointments include Jake Teufert, named Chief Technology Officer after serving most recently as Benchmark’s Chief Engineer and leading the development and readiness of the company’s green propulsion technologies. Teufert joined Benchmark in 2020 with the acquisition of Tesseract Space, a company he co-founded in 2017.

Benchmark Co-Founder Matt Shea is heading up product design and development as Chief Product Officer. Shea’s new role comes at a time when the company is transitioning from development to large scale commercial production and product rollouts, featuring design reuse across propulsion platforms that enables rapid system concept development-to delivery capabilities and deployments.

Wesley Grove has been named Chief Operations Officer following his previous role as Senior Operations Manager. Grove will continue to play an integral role in Benchmark’s strategic facilities and manufacturing expansions in the US and UK, where the company is developing and delivering tailored and rapid deployment thrusters and propulsion systems for commercial and defense operations in space.

Carella also introduced Kevin DiMarzio as Benchmark’s new Director of Business Development. DiMarzio most recently served in executive roles with Redwire Space and Made in Space.


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