Accion Systems

These founders' alien obsession helped launched their company--into outer space

Logistics & Transportation
$10 million

At the center of the booming commercial universe known as New Space is an emerging generation of satellites that are much smaller than the floating dinosaurs they're designed to replace. Smaller satellites need even smaller propulsion systems, and Accion Systems makes very small ones indeed. "The key to our technology is a chip the size of a penny," says Louis Perna, co-founder and lead mechanical engineer. "We can help small satellites stay in space longer, get to where you want them to be, and maintain that location." These chips are also inexpensive and uncomplicated. They're deployable in arrays like so many postage stamps, suitable for smallsats (which are about the size of dorm fridges) and cubesats (more like whiskey-bottle boxes). You want bigger than that? No problem. The chips are scalable for satellites of any size. Powered by charged particles that accelerate to enormous speeds, the tech enables the satellites to carry out their missions once they've been launched into space. Yes, this is rocket science: Co-founders Perna and Natalya Bailey are both rocket scientists. They developed the technology while working on their PhDs at MIT. The name of the company, which had $4.5 million in sales last year, comes from Accio, the summoning charm Hermione Granger taught Harry Potter at Hogwarts. -David Whitford