Space is a tough place for electronic circuits since radiation causes short circuits that result in mission failure, said Hwai Lin Khor, vice president of Zero-Error Systems.
Many companies currently build satellite electronics systems with commercial-off-the-shelves (COTS) semiconductor devices to meet the lower cost requirement. But, according to Khor, the COTS chip devices can’t meet the radiation performance, causing system failure and data corruption in space. To address malfunctions using COTS semiconductor devices, Singapore-based startup Zero-Error Systems (ZES) built a patented radiation-hardened semiconductor integrated circuits technology for space and energy management applications.
Today, the startup said it has secured a $7.5 million Series A funding round, which brings its total raised to approximately $10 million, from investors, including Airbus Ventures and the Dart family office. The latest capital will support ZES’s research and development in Singapore and help increase global customers and grow its team, which has 10 people to date.
Three Japanese satellites and one European satellite operator use ZES’ technology, Khor said. Its target customers include satellite subsystems, rovers, space electronics manufacturers, and earth applications exposed to radiation, such as nuclear reactors, aviation, uncrewed drones and more. ZES’s power management solutions, initially designed for space applications for battery or solar power, could also be used for consumer electronics and industrial applications like smartphones, wearable devices and IoT companies.
In 2019, ZES was spun off from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, which has over 15 years of research on radiation-hardened integrated circuits and efficient power management designs.
“We [the founding team] observed growing demands for constellations and low earth orbit satellites to provide communication, data access, earth observation, surveillance and reconnaissance,” Khor said. “Most of these satellites are using components that will not thrive in space; Hence, we saw the opportunity to launch the business.”
The radiation-hardened electronics market is estimated to reach approximately $4.5 billion by 2030, with a CAGR of more than 7.5% from 2021.
“Satellites, lunar landers and rovers increase demand for ICs and computing power such as artificial intelligence and power management,” Mat Costes, Partner of Airbus Ventures. “The space industry is growing and expanding beyond where we could imagine not that long ago. ZES could be [an] enabler for OEMs and new players to achieve their mission via cost and performance.”