Auckland-based space-tech company Zenno Astronautics (Zenno) has announced a $10.5 million seed round. Based on the patented use of super magnets, the company’s satellite control and propulsion system is set to revolutionise the way spacecrafts navigate space and the impact they have on our planet. The tech enables completely fuel-free satellite positioning; as well as fully autonomous, precision interaction between satellites (critical for debris removal, servicing and construction in orbit), leading to world-first electromagnetic shielding of spacecrafts and the humans inside them from radiation damage.
Raised off the back of a multi-year sales commitment of several million dollars, including a committed constellation (a system of satellites that work together to achieve a purpose), by well established industry veterans, New Zealand’s GD1 (Global From Day One) and Nuance Connected Capital led the round, with additional investment from US based Shasta Ventures. NZGCP, K1W1, European billionaire Wolfgang Leitner, Alt Ventures, Enterprise Angels, and NZVC also participated.
The company has also announced that Peter Crabtree, the Founder and first Head of the NZ Space Agency, will join its board as Chairman. Mitali Purohit of Nuance Connected Capital, and Vignesh Kumar of GD1 join the board as Investor Directors.
The seed round will enable Zenno to launch the technology in-orbit on a technology demonstration mission in Q4 of 2023.Scalable technology for sustainable space exploration
“Getting objects to move around in space is hugely challenging. There’s nothing to push on and never enough power or fuel to make things move as much as you need them to,” explains Max Arshavsky, Zenno Founder, CEO and CTO.
“What Zenno has built will enable easy, seamless movement in space without the need for power or fuel and while taking up twenty times less space than traditional propulsion systems. The technology that has the potential to support the future of the space industry for 100 years to come in a transformative, planet friendly manner,” believes Max.
“GD1 is proud to be supporting a groundbreaking innovation that will enable an entire industry to shift from the short-term, profit driven exploration of space to to long-term, sustainable exploration. It’s set to open up doors for both hardware and humans to challenge the boundaries of what’s been achieved in previous decades. GD1’s challenge to founders is always to ‘believe bigger’. Zenno’s team is the embodiment of this challenge,” comments Vignesh Kumar, Co-Managing Partner GD1 Fund 3.
“With an exponential increase in planned launches, in-space transportation and the building of in-space infrastructure, Zenno’s technology will provide a platform to change the space industry for good. The company is well positioned to service this market; and Nuance Connected Capital is excited to be part of the founders’ journey as they look to take on the world of space and take their technology in orbit,” adds Mitali Purohit, Senior Investment Manager, Nuance Connected Capital.Turning, moving and shielding in outer space
Satellites require persistent shifts to ensure their antenna, sensors, solar panels and more are facing the correct directions. Zenno’s flagship product, the Z01, a magnetic super torquer, utilises cryogenically cooled high temperature superconductors to generate strong magnetic fields which facilitates satellite turning. The Z01 is a fraction of the size and weight of traditional torquers. “The on-satellite hardware generates an electromagnetic field which interacts with the Earth’s geomagnetic field, allowing the satellite to rotate and shift as required. It is, essentially, a sustainable magnetic sail,” explains Max. The Supertorquer consumes electricity only and requires neither on-satellite fuel consumption nor any mechanical parts - meaning no maintenance and no failure.
In addition to turning, the supercooled electromagnetic hardware can also be used for satellite movement (through electromagnetic tunnels and inter-satellite interaction). This will make in-space debris removal, servicing and construction in orbit a lot more accurate. Powered by solar panels, the system’s ‘super magnets’ could completely remove the need for traditional rocket propulsion beyond lifting an object into orbit.
In future, the system’s forcefield will also be used to shield satellites in order to protect crew and equipment from charged particle radiation. There is currently no like-for-like satellite shielding mechanism in-market today.
Independent testing by the Victoria University Wellington has verified the system’s on-earth feasibility. Integration of the locally manufactured technology into a maiden satellite will soon be performed in Italy, followed by launch in the United States.
“While our near-term innovation potential is significant; Zenno has even more ambitious plans. Our ultimate vision is to create an electromagnetic tunnel through which a payload can pass and get accelerated – a kind of hyperloop for space. To us, the sky isn’t the limit! We’re only just getting started!” concludes Max.About GD1
GD1 is an institutional-grade VC fund manager supporting globally ambitious companies with capital, operating expertise, and a vast network in order to help them achieve outsized success on the world stage. We invest from seed to scale, with headquarters in New Zealand and connections globally. Our purpose is to help founders and teams believe bigger by helping to dream, act, and achieve at a global scale. GD1's deep expertise in venture capital and real-world global operating knowledge was gained via experience in technology companies across Europe, the United States, and New Zealand. This experience, as well as ongoing relationships, ensures that founders and management teams are supported from day one. For more information, visit gd1.vc.About Nuance Connected Capital:
Nuance Connected Capital is a purpose-driven deep tech venture fund investing in innovation that either improves the planet or the way people live. In addition to bringing founder-friendly, on-shore follow-on capital to Kiwi entrepreneurs, Nuance has extensive industry channel networks across the globe providing strategic market access to portfolio companies to help them scale up and drive exits.