Propulsion Systems For Satellites

Company Information




Satellites, Space


North Hills, CA

Tesseract has developed an efficient, affordable propulsion system for satellites. These systems are used to help satellites that are launched into outer space remain in orbit.

The company is a 2017 graduate of Y Combinator, an accelerator program that's guided companies including Airbnb, Dropbox, and Stripe to success.

The company has already received letters of intent from several satellite manufacturers, which could translate into $150 million in annual revenue. Tesseract aims to launch its system in 2019.

Outer space is becoming a massive industry. The in-space propulsion market is valued at $9.2 billion and is growing at 22% each year.

Big deals are becoming more common. For example, SoftBank Group, a Japanese conglomerate, recently invested $1 billion in OneWeb, a company that has hundreds of artificial satellites orbiting the Earth to provide telecommunications.

Traditionally, most satellites in space have been large machines that cost upwards of $300 million each.

But now companies are launching multiple small, inexpensive satellites instead.

Over the next eight years, more than 23,000 of these satellites are planned to be launched into outer space. Each one will require propulsion to get into orbit and stay there.

Propulsion is a system that enables satellites to maneuver to their desired operational orbit after being launched.

Satellites get to space by riding a launch vehicle, but can’t remain in their assigned orbit without propulsion to keep them there. Propulsion is also used to enable satellites to change orbits when necessary.

The problem is the current propulsion systems are too expensive for these smaller satellites.

The traditional systems, designed in the 1960s, were meant for large satellites. They rely on highly toxic fuels and require expensive materials. Simply fueling the system costs $500,000 in addition to the cost of the system itself.

Competitors have developed propulsion systems that cut down on costs. But the systems can still cost upwards of $1 million. And to achieve this drop in cost, the systems sacrifice performance.

Competing propulsion systems have a specific impulse, or “Isp” of 206 seconds (this is a measure of how efficiently a rocket uses fuel, similar to miles per gallon for cars).

Tesseract’s system, meanwhile, costs $500,000 in total and has an Isp of 320 seconds. The system also offers 15% higher propellant density, meaning it can offer twice the maneuvering capability than other systems.

Because Tesseract doesn’t use costly platinum to build its systems, the company reduces manufacturing costs by 90%.

Tesseract is led by a team with extensive experience in the aerospace industry. Chief Technology Officer Jacob Teufert worked for several aerospace manufacturers, including Masten Space Systems, Orbital ATK, and Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Meanwhile, CEO Erik Franks previously served as a test pilot for Velocity Airplane aircraft manufacturer.

Team Background

Jacob Teufert - Co-Founder & CTO

Before starting Tesseract, Jacob served as Propulsion Engineering Lead for Masten Space Systems, an aerospace manufacturer.

In addition, he served as a propulsion engineer for Orbital ATK aerospace manufacturer and Aerojet Rocketdyne, a rocket and missile propulsion manufacturer.

Jacob earned a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering and a Master’s degree in Space Systems from Florida Institute of Technology.

Erik Franks - Co-Founder & CEO

Erik previously served as Operations Manager for Masten Space Systems aerospace manufacturer. While there, he also worked as a rocket systems engineer.

For more than three years, he worked as an airplane builder and test pilot for Velocity Airplane, an aircraft manufacturer.

Erik is the former Founder of Frugal Media, a used book store located in Austin, Texas. While there, he grew the company to 50 employees and $3 million in annual sales.

He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Texas and a Master’s degree in Space Studies from the International Space University.

Jeff Gibson - Co-Founder & COO

Prior to starting Tesseract, Jeff worked as a lead system engineer with Masten Space Systems aerospace manufacturer.

Before that, he worked for nearly six years as a senior engineer with UTC Aerospace Systems. While there, he built guided missiles and developed guidance systems for reusable rockets.

Jeff earned a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Florida Institute of Technology and a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from North Carolina State University.


Y Combinator

Seed-stage accelerator whose alumni include Scribd, Reddit, Airbnb, Dropbox and Stripe