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Bits Exclusive: New cash for German satellite startup

Daniel Bock, CEO of Morpheus Space, about how he attracted international VCs. Meet him personally at the Bits & Pretzels Networking Week 2020

It’s a huge step for the growing community of German New Space startups: Dresden-based Morpheus Space, which develops and builds precise propulsion for satellites to navigate in zero gravity, just told Bits & Pretzels exclusively about the news considering its first private seed financing round for which it was able to attract well-known international VCs, such as Airbus Ventures, In-Q-Tel, Vsquared Ventures, Lavrock Ventures, Techstars and Pallas Ventures. 

And you have a chance to meet Morpheus technologies co-founder Daniel Bock at our Bits & Pretzels Networking Week 2020 (Sept 27th to Oct 2nd 2020).

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The new financial round is a huge leap forward for the deep tech industry and for its own growth strategy since it’s targeting to double-size its team and to prepare its facilities in Dresden for mass production moving forward. In addition to that Morpheus was able to win Richard V. Spencer, former United States Secretary of the Navy, for its Board of Directors. Morpheus doesn’t want to disclose the exact amount of funding just yet, since the value is more on the partnership & network side, as Daniel Bock explains to us. 

Moving satellites with a technology that has the size of a finger-tipp 

Morpheus, whose novel electric thrusters enable tiny satellites to maneuver and big ones to reduce complexity, is a spin-off from the Institute for Aviation and Space Technology at the Technical University Dresden and was founded in 2018 by Daniel Bock and István Lörincz. While Bock was working on his PhD thesis he developed a new drive technology for nano-satellites which are small satellites with a mass of one to 10kg. 

To this date, nano-satellites are usually not equipped with propulsion which makes them rather inefficient, Bock claims. Morpheus wants to make satellite propulsion smaller, cheaper, less prone to safety issues and more efficient by using a patented technology for its fingertip-sized drive. 

The trick Bock figured out was using a metal called Gallium which is very dense as propellant together with a system that ionises the metal very efficiently. Additionally, the drives are built modularly, like LEGO, which gives the system more flexibility. The bigger the satellite, the more drives one can combine to achieve the desired result. After successful in-space trials Morpheus sent two private satellites into orbit with six of their drives on their first commercial flight in February 2019.

Right now, the HQ is located in Dresden, but the team is planning its second hub in Los Angeles, because it sees a lot more potential in the US. “About half of the space business is located in the US”, says Bock. But he still wants to have foot down in Dresden with its company as Germany provides a good ecosystem for Deep Tech, he’s convinced, specifically due to talent coming from the renowned technical universities. 

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Herbert Mangesius, Managing Partner at Vsquared Ventures, who is an investor in Morpheus, sees great opportunities for New Space startups in German as well. “In the current phase of the rapidly growing New Space Economy, German innovations and entrepreneurs play key technological roles.” According to him, the demand for these products comes primarily from the USA therefore through new alliances such as Morpheus Space and its new American investors, a golden generation of new German space companies could emerge.

And Morpheus Space Technologies wants to be a substantial part of that New Space Movement, consisting of commercialised Space Travel, satellite constellations and more. Bock's next big goal is to not only build the drives needed for precise movement in space but to also create the software needed to establish autonomous “agile satellite constellations”. As the founder describes it: “Managing whole constellations as an entity is our aim. Using AI, we want to enable our customers to autonomously navigate whole constellations instead of employing a whole team."

You want to learn more about what’s going on in the space industry in Germany and Europe? Join us at this year’s Bits & Pretzels Networking Week and meet Daniel along with other rising stars in the field, such as Morpheus Space, Planet, Orora Tech or Isar Aerospace