February 7, 2023

The French spacetech working with Elon Musk’s SpaceX

Exotrail has just raised $58m, and is doubling down on growth in the US and Asia

Founders David Henri, Jean-Luc Maria, Nicolas Heitz and Paul Lascombes

French spacetech Exotrail — which makes propulsion systems for satellites — has raised $58m of debt and equity in a Series B led by French state investor Bpifrance. 

The raise was “mostly equity”, according to the startup, and will be spent on developing new products and expanding in the US and Asia.

Want more in-depth analysis of Europe's spacetech sector? Our latest report covers the rising stars and rocketships set to launch. Read for free


What does Exotrail do?

Exotrail was founded in 2015 and builds small satellite propulsion systems for deployment and movement around space. It also provides analysis and operating software that it says helps to optimise satellites' performance. 

The startup sells to satellite launchers, manufacturers and operators, including clients like the European Space Agency, aerospace manufacturers Airbus and Thales Alenia Space and satellite operator Eutelsat.

Working with Elon Musk

Last year, Exotrail manufactured 70 propulsion systems — up from the 10 it was producing in 2020. CEO Jean-Luc Maria says it plans to use the funding to double this by the second half of 2023.

It will also use the cash to scale up its space logistics product, Spacedrop — a service which delivers satellites to space if they don’t have their own propulsion systems on board. It will launch from one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets in October 2023.

It’s also targeting the US more widely with its expansion plans this year — something Maria says is down to reaching new potential customers.

“The biggest market in spacetech remains by far the US, and the Asian market is also growing a lot,” he says. “It is time for us to accelerate and ensure a presence in these two regions to get closer to potential customers.”

Who’s invested?

Alongside lead investor Bpifrance, pan-European VC Eurazeo and software engineering company Celad participated in the round.

Previous backers 360 Capital, Karista, Irdi Capital Investissement, Innovacom, iXO Private Equity and NCI-Waterstart also were also involved.

The spacetech market

While the US spacetech market is the global leader — with company’s like SpaceX, 3D-printed-rocket maker Relativity and space research platform Sierra Space raising billions of dollars — European startups have begun raising more sizeable rounds in the last couple of years.

  • Finnish micro-satellite manufacturer Iceye raised a $136m Series D in a round featuring Molten Ventures in February 2022;
  • French satellite network startup E-Space raised $50m in the same month;
  • Scottish orbit rocket builder Orbex raised £40.4m in October 2022.

Kai Nicol-Schwarz

Kai Nicol-Schwarz is a reporter at Sifted. He covers UK tech and healthtech, and can be found on X and LinkedIn