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LOGAN, Utah — French space mobility company Exotrail has created two U.S. subsidiaries as part of efforts to serve a growing number of American customers.
Exotrail announced Aug. 7 that it has created Exotrail U.S. Inc. and Exotrail U.S. Federal Inc. to serve the American market. Tyler Browder, co-founder and former chief executive of space software company Kubos, is chief executive of Exotrail U.S.
The new subsidiaries are part of an expansion strategy for the French company funded by a $58 million Series B round it raised in February. The company offers a line of electric propulsion systems called spaceware as well as mission design and operations software. It is also developing spacedrop, a space logistics service that features a tug to deploy satellites to their desired orbits.
David Henri, co-founder and chief product officer of Exotrail, said in an interview during the Small Satellite Conference that, in the near term, Exotrail U.S. will sell spaceware thrusters directly to U.S. customers to ease the challenges of exporting the thrusters from France to the U.S. It will also set up software services on U.S. cloud computing infrastructure.
The two subsidiaries will serve different customers. “Exotrail U.S. is focused on commercial entities, helping them bring in technologies from France,” Browder said in an interview. “The federal one is exclusively focused on U.S. government work, whether civil or defense related.”
Browder said that Exotrail is seeing stronger commercial and government demand for propulsion as smallsats move up in size from cubesats to microsats. There’s also growing interest in orbital transfer vehicles despite problem some companies have had developing and demonstrating them.
“On the defense side we’re seeing pretty big signals,” said Brian Holt, director of U.S. government business development and partnerships for Exotrail U.S. “Exotrail is a one-stop shop from a space logistics perspective, so we’re positioned to support all those defense requirements.”
In the next year, Exotrail plans to establish a production facility in the United States for its spaceware thrusters. It will also be an integration facility for spacedrop vehicles so that U.S. customers don’t need to ship their satellites to Europe for integration and then back to the U.S. for launch.
“We’re looking for a city that makes the most sense for our customer base, our supply chain and our talent base,” Browder said. The company’s goal is to start production of spaceware thrusters from that U.S. site by the end of 2024.
Those facilities will support a growing customer base. Henri said Exotrail already has customers such as Astro Digital, Starfish Space and York Space Systems, as well as others it has not announced. A third of Exotrail’s customer base is in North America, with another third in Europe and the remainder in Asia.
“In the U.S. definitely we see a lot of traction,” he said, which the new subsidiaries will help foster by better supporting existing customers and attracting new U.S. customers.
“We figured we didn’t need a U.S. presence to start,” he said, working contract relationships remotely. “We’re excited about what we will get with this U.S. presence and believe we can become a prime contractor for both commercial and government customers here in the U.S.”
Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science... More by Jeff Foust
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