Stellenbosch satellite start-up CubeSpace in R47m fundraise

CubeSpace CEO Mike-Alec Kearney

CubeSpace, a satellite components manufacturer with roots in the research laboratories of Stellenbosch University, has secured R47-million in venture capital funding for global expansion.

After establishing itself as a major player in the “cubesat” market, the company is using its research and development capabilities to “transform the broader satellite industry”.

The venture money is coming from the University Technology Fund and co-investor Savant Venture Fund.

Known for controlling 300 satellites and for being endorsed by US space agency Nasa, the company aims to grow in the US and European markets, enhancing support for its worldwide client base.

“Gone are the times where satellite manufacturing was reserved for governments of large, first-world countries. We have developed a modular and low-cost control system capable of controlling any size satellite, which will help researchers, private companies and governments globally build satellites a lot quicker, with smaller teams and at much lower cost,” said CubeSpace CEO Mike-Alec Kearney in a statement on Wednesday.

The company has already secured its first six contracts for microsatellites, with the largest contract being for a 400kg Earth observation satellite destined for very-low-Earth orbit at 200km.

‘Reaction wheels’

“We’re expanding our capabilities to control satellites up to one ton through our new range of large reaction wheels. These wheels include a high-efficiency precision electrical motor developed in-house to address an urgent need in the satellite constellation market for high-performance, low-cost reaction wheels that can be delivered in high volumes for demanding schedules,” Kearney said.

The control systems play a crucial role in the operation of satellites by ensuring precision pointing and stability, allowing the operation of optical payloads and antennas. This expertise is highlighted by CubeSpace’s inclusion in Nasa’s small spacecraft technology report.

Read: Direct-to-mobile satellite will change the game: Vodacom

The company has played a significant role in groundbreaking missions, including the development of the control systems for the UAE lunar rover and is currently in the process of building control systems for three more lunar rovers, which will contribute to the colonisation of the moon and Mars.

The company actively contributes to initiatives aimed at improving conditions on Earth, including projects related to the removal of space debris, smart agriculture, global internet access, and the monitoring of climate, weather patterns and maritime activities.

“CubeSpace embodies the University Technology Fund’s vision to invest in South African university technology with global potential. This is the fund’s largest investment to date, reflecting our confidence in the company,” said UTF CEO Wayne Stocks in the statement.

“The investment in CubeSpace is a great case study, demonstrating that local university technology is an overlooked but very promising asset class. This is also supported by the fast growth in the Stellenbosch University group of companies, which currently boasts nearly 30 spinout companies,” said Anita Nel, innovation chief director at Stellenbosch University.  – © 2024 NewsCentral Media

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