Apex, an LA-based satellite developer, emerged from stealth today with $7.5M+ in funding. Andreessen Horowitz led the round, with participation from XYZ, J2, Lux Capital, and Village Global.
The name of the game
Apex aims to manufacture satellite buses in the 100-kilogram class that can support ~100 kgs of payload. It aims to sell Aries, its first product, into the commercial space market and support EO and communications missions. Apex says Aries will be available as an off-the-shelf platform that can be configured with specific subsystems to support certain customer needs.
“I’ve always been under the impression…that commercial access to space really wasn’t a thing,” Apex Cofounder Ian Cinnamon told Payload. That’s changed with dropping launch costs, increasingly sophisticated satellite payloads, and the growing volume of data being generated and downlinked from orbit, “but the spacecraft itself, or the satellite bus, is somewhat of an afterthought,” Cinnamon said.
A company must build the bus in-house (which is a multi-year, $10M–$15M endeavor), procure the bus from a traditional government contractor, or “go to one of these more agile R&D firms.” The first category is primarily building government- and national security-focused platforms, Cinnamon said, while the latter tend to focus on cubesats.
What’s changed in recent years?
“There’s been hundreds of billions of dollars that have been invested into launch companies, which massively reduced the cost of launch.”
- SpaceX charges virtually the same price for 150 or 200 kg Transporter rideshare missions.
- “Mass is no longer directly coupled to cost—it’s now a combo of mass plus volume,” Cinnamon said.
“What that means is you no longer need your satellite bus to be custom-built to wrap around your payload,” Cinnamon said, “and you can start to think about making it more of a repeatable platform.”
He wouldn’t share specifics on Aries’s design, as that’s the startup’s secret sauce, but said that “it comes down to better software throughout the entire process.”
- Cinnamon previously founded Synapse Technology, an AI security startup that exited to Palantir.
- Max Benassi, Apex’s other cofounder, formerly built vehicles at SpaceX and served as Astra’s director of engineering.
What next? Apex will principally use its seed funding for recruiting. The funding may not get it all the way to flight heritage, but the startup aims to begin generating revenue by the time Aries (or its precursor) heads to orbit.
+ Want more? Stay tuned for our full Q+A with Cinnamon, which we’ll publish later this week.