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As this Burlington-based satellite company continues to grow, it’ll expand to the UK

Two men sit in front of a desk in an engineering office.
Benchmark Space Systems, Courtesy
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Benchmark Space Systems, a Burlington satellite company, is expanding to the United Kingdom. CEO Ryan McDevitt, right, is seen here with Mark Arthur, the company's director of European operations.

A Burlington company that makes propulsion systems for satellites is expanding to the United Kingdom, while it grows its business in Vermont.

Benchmark Space Systems makes products that propel small satellites in space using hydrogen peroxide, which the company says is cleaner than other satellite propellants. The company started five years ago with just a few employees. Today it has 75, about half of which are at its headquarters in Vermont, according to CEO and co-founder Ryan McDevitt.

In 2020, Benchmark acquired a California company. Now, it's opening a manufacturing site in Aylesbury, England.

"The lease is signed, we're moving in as we speak,” McDevitt said. “I would say June 1 is when we'll officially be open for business. But yeah, we're moving stuff over there right now."

Along with its new UK location, where Benchmark has four employees, the company has signed a contract with U.K. startup Space Forge, and McDevitt said he hopes to soon have other contracts in place in Europe.

“We're engaged with a handful of companies, nothing that I can announce officially today,” he said. “But we do have some new contracts that will be coming up here shortly that hopefully we'll be able to announce by the end of the summer.”

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Benchmark’s headquarters are in the Hula co-working space in Burlington. McDevitt said he intends to keep the company headquartered in Vermont and significantly grow its presence here in the next year. The company is doubling the space of its Vermont operations, which McDevitt said will give the business room to have 70 employees in Burlington. The company also intends to exponentially increase its output.

“Last year, we built roughly three propulsion systems here in Vermont. This year, we're on track to build seven,” McDevitt said. “Next year, we're on track to build 80.”

Benchmark’s success to date has been aided by public investment: McDevitt’s work began as a graduate student at the University of Vermont, where he completed a doctorate in mechanical engineering in 2014. The company was initially supported by Vermont EPSCoR, a federally-funded research program. McDevitt said he also received guidance from the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, which led to funding from a local venture capital firm.

“Certainly the Vermont ecosystem is a big part of our story,” McDevitt said.

Benchmark has also had support from the federal level. In the past three years, the company has received over $2.8 million in federal contracts and grants from both NASA and the Department of Defense, as well as a $200,000 loan from the Paycheck Protection Loan Program (PPP) in April 2020.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Henry Epp @TheHenryEpp:

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Henry is a reporter covering business, the economy and infrastructure at Vermont Public. He's also co-host of The Frequency, Vermont Public's daily news podcast, along with Anna Van Dine. Henry came to Vermont Public in 2017, and worked as the station's host of All Things Considered until November 2021. Prior to that, he was a reporter and host of Morning Edition at New England Public Media in western Massachusetts. A graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, Henry was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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