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Apex Ready to Increase Satellite Bus Production With $95M Funding Round

By Calvin Biesecker | June 12, 2024

Apex co-founders: CEO Ian Cinnamon, left, and CTO Max Benassi, right. Photo: Apex

Satellite developer and manufacturer Apex on Wednesday said it has closed a $95 million funding round that will allow it to begin to scale production and expand its suite of standardized and configurable spacecraft buses that it eventually expects to deliver within weeks of an order.

Demand is strong and the customer base is growing, the product has been built and now is time to scale production, Ian Cinnamon, co-founder and CEO of Apex, told Defense Daily on June 7.

In March, Los Angeles-based Apex launched its first Aries SN1 spacecraft aboard a SpaceX flight rideshare one year after designing the satellite from scratch. Aries SN1 was the first of five satellites Apex will build this year with 20 spacecraft planned in 2025 and more beyond that, Cinnamon said.

The satellites are being built for commercial customers, system integrators where the government is the end customer or planning internally-funded demonstration missions, and for government customers such as the U.S. Space Force’s Space Safari program office, he said.

Apex’s standardized approach to spacecraft buses is essentially designed for mass production and the company expects customers that plan to add on complex payloads and use them in larger constellations. Apex is focused on larger satellites as opposed to smaller spacecraft like CubeSats, which are about the size of a shoe box.

Aries is the smallest of Apex’s buses and is an ESPA class satellite weighing 100 kilograms without fuel or payloads “and the reason for that is the whole point of this company is we’re building these as products, meaning we’re building them at scale, and our ideal customer or customers are not going to buy one for an experiment but they’re going to buy a constellation,” Cinnamon said. “It’s customers like Space Development Agency, Space Force, the IC [intelligence community] side of things, etcetera, and they want many and their payloads are more complex. So, their payloads are larger.”

Cinnamon said the company has “many” customers and the list is growing. And a “key” demand from industry is “to get satellite buses built faster,” he said.

Being able to manufacture satellites at scale to meet customers’ needs in weeks rather than months or years, as is the case with bespoke designs, is an attractive proposition for investors who see the need for rapid production to meet surging demand.

“The way we talk about it internally is basically the market need is meeting exactly what we think the team can deliver,” Ross Fubini, managing partner of XYZ Venture Capital, which is the co-lead investor in Apex’s Series B round, told Defense Daily on June 10.

XYZ is an early-stage VC firm but Fubini likes what he sees in Apex, which is why his firm is co-leading the round with CRV. He gave two reason he believes Apex will earn him a return on the investment.

The first is “we can all see this is a wave coming” for more launches and satellites to create new space infrastructures and to quickly respond to threats, Fubini said. This is driving the need for satellite bus standardization, which in turn enables being responsive to market demand, he said.

The second thing is that Apex has solved the technical challenges to create a quality product that is standardized, is in demand, and has also built the customer relationships, Fubini said.

Going from clean sheet design to launch within a year on Aries SN1 “is a nice evidence point,” Fubini said. XYZ’s research shows that customers want satellite buses delivered on time and on budget and currently this “doesn’t exist” in the market, he said.

Aries SN1 included several payload customers but only one has been disclosed, Booz Allen Hamilton.

Apex is also developing the Nova satellite bus, a 200-kilogram vehicle. The Series B funding will also go toward development of Nova and the start of production in 2025, Cinnamon said. On its website, Apex also features a 500-kilogram dry mass bus it is planning called Comet.

In addition to XYX, which previously invested in Apex, and CRV, new investors include Upfront, 8VC, Toyota Ventures, Point72 Ventures, Mirae Asset Capital, Outsiders Fund, and GSBackers, existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Shield Capital, J2 Ventures, and Ravelin, angel investors Baiju Bhatt and Avalon Capital Group, and a private investment company founded by Ted Waitt.

This story was first published by Defense Daily.