SAN FRANCISCO – Launch startup Evolution Space has signed a memorandum of understanding to launch a small satellite constellation for optical communications startup Xenesis.
Under the $120 million deal signed in May, Evolution will perform five suborbital and 25 orbital launches for Xenesis beginning in 2025.
Mojave, California-based Evolution is taking an iterative approach to developing small solid rockets to launch 250 to 450 kilograms into low Earth orbit.
“We focus on simplicity and have no ambitions to build bigger rockets,” Steve Heller, founder and CEO of Evolution, told Space news† “We’ll start with a suborbital platform and use that as a leapfrog for an orbital platform.”
A subscale version of Evolution’s suborbital rocket, which will serve as the booster for the company’s orbital vehicle, cost the company about $70,000 to build. That missile reached a height of 56,219 meters during tests conducted in Mojave in November.
In May, Evolution conducted further testing of a new sub-orbital vehicle. That missile, built in three weeks for less than $50,000, showed improvement in the company’s guidance, navigation and control system, Heller said. Six more launches will be completed next year.
Evolution, originally called Sugarhouse Aerospace, was founded in Salt Lake City in 2018. Since its rebranding a year ago, the company has amassed a staff of 10, which it aims to double within a year.
“We are geeks when it comes to solid propulsion. We build every piece of our rockets “from propulsion to launch pellets,” Heller said.
The company’s streamlined approach is well suited to this day and age, as investors aren’t as eager to support space companies as they were a year ago.
“I think the spending reflects the market,” Heller said.
Working with Xenesis will allow Evolution to fine-tune its missile development program.
“We’re looking for a customer who can tell us exactly what to build,” Heller said. “Is 250 kilograms to low-Earth orbit or is it 400? Which is more important: adaptable propensities or time to launch, because solids are widely applicable for customers trying to set things up where they want, when they want? ”
Founded in 2017, Xenesis plans to establish an optical communications constellation to provide connectivity to mobile network operators, Internet service providers and enterprises.
Mark LaPenna, founder and CEO of Xenesis, said he is excited to partner with Evolution because “these guys represent a paradigm shift in the way we do business in this industry.”
“It’s the fast iteration,” LaPenna said. “It’s the fail fast, succeed fast mentality that these guys are hammering home. It is also a high degree of professionalism. They have a building schedule. They execute.”