Accion Systems raises $11M for tiny ion engines, with Boeing HorizonX Ventures playing a lead role

Accion ion thruster
Each of Accion Systems’ ion thrusters is about the size of a postage stamp. (Accion Systems Photo)

Boeing HorizonX Ventures has teamed up with Shasta Ventures to lead an $11 million Series B investment round for Accion Systems, a pioneer in developing miniaturized ion propulsion systems for satellites in space.

This isn’t the first time Boeing and Shasta have announced investments in Accion, which was spun out from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014. Shasta led a $7.5 million Series A round in 2016, and Boeing HorizonX led a $3 million venture round in 2018.

Accion says it has now amassed $36 million in total funding to date, including $14 million in Defense Department and NASA contracts. The new capital will be used to ramp up production capabilities as well as Accion’s workforce, the company said today in a news release.

Accion’s Tiled Ionic Liquid Electrospray propulsion system, known as TILE, aims to increase the lifespan and maneuverability of satellites. TILE uses electric fields to accelerate a non-toxic, ionic liquid propellant through tiny thrusters.

“At the size of a postage stamp, our propulsion system is rewriting the rules of small-sat navigation and maneuverability,” Accion Systems CEO Natalya Bailey said. “We’re excited to ramp up production and offer our clients benefits such as extending mission lifetime, station-keeping and deorbiting capabilities.”

Accion’s TILE system will be used on several experimental nanosatellites due for launch in 2020, and the venture was one of 14 companies to receive “Tipping Point” funding from NASA last year to develop technologies for missions to the moon and Mars. Accion received $3.9 million to work with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on an ion propulsion system that could be used on small satellites, like the MarCO CubeSats that sailed past Mars in 2018 in conjunction with the Mars InSight mission.

The newly developed ion drive could come into play as soon as next year.

Boeing HorizonX Ventures said its investment “supports Boeing’s leadership in adopting next-generation technologies to advance satellite capabilities.”

HorizonX serves as the aerospace giant’s channel for investments in technologies that are relevant to Boeing’s business lines, ranging from advanced manufacturing and virtual reality to autonomous flight and artificial intelligence.

The HorizonX portfolio of 20 companies includes several other space-related ventures, including Isotropic Systems, BridgeSat and Myriota. In 2018, Boeing acquired Millennium Space Systems, which specializes in building small satellites for national security missions.

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