MiVT: Benchmark Space Systems

Published: Mar. 25, 2019 at 1:24 PM EDT
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When many people think of products that are "Made in Vermont," they think of artisan foods, clothing or toiletries. But there's a lot of tech here too, including some out-of-this-world systems from a South Burlington company.

"Roughly the size of a mini fridge down to a loaf of bread," said Ryan McDevitt, who says the idea stemmed from his graduate work at the University of Vermont on satellites getting smaller and cheaper. "But there wasn't a good system of propulsion for these small satellites."

In 2017 McDevitt co-founded Benchmark. It's one of only a handful of companies around the world engineering this kind of technology. Their systems allow satellites to move around once they're in orbit. Greater control allows the satellite's owner to extend its lifespan and bring it back down once it's done.

"Instead of leaving the junk up there, it will burn up in the atmosphere and keep space clean for future generations," McDevitt said.

They have two systems -- the B-125 is for the big satellites and the DFAST is for the smaller ones.

"This is the holding tank for the fuel here, and the gas is expelled out the nozzle there," explained Matt Walton, a propulsion engineer involved in the design and testing.

He says they have to simulate conditions in space to make sure the system won't explode. "It's the classic engineering cycle of design, test, redesign, and I get to be part of all of that here," Walton said.

Here, their job is -- in fact -- rocket science, something McDevitt says is part of the allure for young engineers. Right now they have six employees and a few interns. But they're growing rapidly thanks to recent fundraising and an Air Force contract.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: So you're going to more than double in the next year.

Ryan McDevitt: That's right. There's a lot of demand right now. The market is kind-of hitting right now.

The next year will be a pretty big one for Benchmark Space Systems. Not only are they expanding, but their first products will be shipped out to customers this fall for launches as early as next year.