In a significant stride toward revolutionizing space propulsion, Helicity Space, a California-based startup specializing in fusion engines for spaceflight, has successfully raised $5 million in a seed funding round announced on December 11. The funding round drew support from notable investors, including Airbus Ventures, TRE Ventures, Voyager Space Holdings, E2MC Space, Urania Ventures, and Gaingels.

Founded in Pasadena in 2018, Helicity kept a low profile during its early years, meticulously ensuring the project’s feasibility and garnering support from strategic partners. Co-founder Stephane Lintner, a former managing director at Goldman Sachs with a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the California Institute of Technology, expressed gratitude for the backing received from long-term strategic partners, considering them as potential future clients.

The latest funding injection will enable Helicity to deliver a proof-of-concept fusion drive, a critical milestone before deploying the technology in space. Lintner emphasized the importance of demonstrating the full functionality of the device on Earth at a smaller scale, showcasing the novelty of their concept.

Fusion power, long a subject of science fiction, holds the promise of clean and abundant energy. For spaceflight, fusion engines could significantly reduce travel time to destinations such as Mars and beyond. Lintner highlighted the necessity of a different kind of propulsion for deep space missions, emphasizing fusion’s efficiency in freeing up substantial energy with minimal fuel consumption.

The technology behind Helicity’s fusion engines stems from the work of Setthivoine You, the company’s co-founder and chief scientist. You, a plasma physics researcher with a Ph.D. from Imperial College London, has patented fusion drive-related innovations. Helicity’s magneto-inertial fusion method, developed with space propulsion in mind, employs recombining plasma jets to create and control the conditions necessary for fusion.

Lewis Pinault, partner at Airbus Ventures, explained that Helicity’s approach to fusion reactions involves using multiple plasma jets, backed by years of research and supercomputer modeling. Pinault expressed confidence that Helicity Space is now transitioning from theory to reality by deploying and testing hardware.

Strategic advisors to Helicity include former NASA astronaut William Ready, retired U.S. Navy Captain, and former NASA Associate Administrator; Alan Stern, former NASA’s Science Mission Directorate leader with a Ph.D. in astrophysics; and Simon “Pete” Worden, former NASA Ames Research Center director and retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general with a Ph.D. in astronomy. The ongoing technology development and testing at Helicity’s Pasadena laboratory signal a promising future, potentially transforming humankind’s capacity for space mobility.

By Impact Lab