Agile Space expanding as its products set to be part of moon landings

Far from the aerospace hotbed of Colorado’s Front Range, Agile Space Industries is scaling up its work in Durango on rocket thrusters that will be used to land on the moon.

The company, started in 2009, designs, tests and manufactures propulsion systems for spacecraft. One of its products, the A110 thruster, has passed performance tests and met customers’ requirements and Agile expects a second product to do the same later this year.

In June, Lockheed Martin Ventures participated in Agile’s $13 million seed-funding round and expects to hold a Series-A investment round later this year to help expand production.

The company said it has raised more than $18 million.

Agile’s customers include companies that plan to use the systems in spacecraft headed to the moon. Agile CEO Chris Pearson said one of the customers is ispace, a Japanese company whose U.S. office is in Denver.

According to its website, ispace will build its Series 2 lunar lander in the U.S. Agile’s thruster is designed to guide landers as they touch down on the lunar surface.

Pearson said Agile’s revenues have grown more than 70% annually since 2020. The company has about 60 employees in Durango and five in Mount Pleasant, Pa., where the company manufactures three-dimensional metal parts.

Agile acquired the manufacturing plant in 2020 and that’s when the company “really took off,” Pearson said. Agile said the operation is focused on advancing the “state-of-the-art in 3D printing for aerospace.”

Industry veteran Daudi Barnes, Agile’s chief technology officer, started the company in 2009, which tested propulsion systems for NASA. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and others. Pearson said the company grew the testing facility in Durango over the next decade and began developing its own propulsion hardware and building its own thrusters.

“The next phase for us is going to be scaling the business,” Pearson said. “We have done a very good job of being able to develop and qualify hardware in small batches, but the challenge is now adding high-production capability.”

Pearson believes the company’s smaller size allows it to be nimble and swift when it comes to responding to customers’ needs.

“What our customers really appreciate is our ability to design, build and test very, very quickly and come up with something that’s pretty cutting-edge, pretty high-performing,” Pearson said.

“In the new space economy, that speed is probably No. 1. It is key,” he added.

Agile’s clients are a mix of commercial, government and military customers.

Chris Moran, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Ventures, said in a statement that the organization’s investment in Agile “underscores our commitment to the development of breakthrough technologies that bring us closer to discovering more of space.”

The Greater Colorado Fund participated in Agile’s recent seed-funding round. Cory Finney, the fund manager, said the funding will help the company “to attract world-class talent to its rural community after hiring more than 30 people in 2022.”

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