Q&A: Space Company Climbs Into Universe of Small Satellite Propulsion
Friday, April 5, 2019
Posted by: Jeff Couture
Ryan McDevitt, 37, is CEO of Benchmark Space Systems, a 2-year-old South Burlington company that makes compact propulsion systems for small satellites.
Benchmark has six employees and is hiring three more to meet a $680,000 contract signed with the U.S. Air Force in March. In November, the company closed on $1.1 million in investment from local angel investors and two venture capital firms: Launch Capital in Boston and Fresh Tracks in Vermont. It’s receiving another $600,000 from investors this month and expects to start selling its product to other customers later this year or early in 2020.
McDevitt grew up in the Burlington area and graduated in 2003 from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He earned a PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of Vermont in 2014 and then worked with his adviser, professor Darren Hitt, and the university’s Office of Technology Commercialization to start his company, filing a patent application for technology he had developed as a graduate student. It’s that technology — a method of making rockets work more efficiently — that he is now commercializing at Benchmark. His co-founder is Matt Shea, a first-year classmate who now lives in Pennsylvania but is involved in day-to-day operations as COO.
McDevitt talked to VTDigger about his young company and its place in the fast-changing universe of small satellite propulsion. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.