James and Stefan Powell

Dawn Aerospace

Imagr of Lucy Turnball

The idea for Dawn Aerospace was borne off the back of a university project. Together with some friends, brothers James and Stefan Powell built the world’s biggest amateur rocket of its time, raising the capital and leading a team to break altitude records.

But the Powells quickly realised that single use, disposable rockets were never going to truly scale to win the space race. A new type of craft was needed – one that could combine rocket performance with the operational efficiency and scalability of aircraft.

The brothers left their respective aviation and aerospace careers to develop a disruptive model of space transportation: an aviation-based model, where space-bound vehicles operate as part of a reusable fleet, opening up access to space in a scalable and sustainable way.

Founded in 2017, Dawn Aerospace, with facilities in both New Zealand and the Netherlands, has become a well-regarded space transportation company providing in-space satellite propulsion to global customers. In 2021 alone, Dawn’s green satellite propulsion units have flown on Vega, SpaceX and Soyuz.

Dawn’s propulsion units use a rideshare launch to reach orbit, but then manoeuvre into position under their own power, providing a low-cost way to put satellites in space without dedicated launch vehicles.

Meanwhile, the Powells are working on a same-day reusable spaceplane Their second “spaceplane”, the Mk-II Aurora will be capable of flights to above 100km altitude, the border to space, before returning to land at an airport, where it can be refuelled and flown again within hours – the first vehicle ever to be capable of such a feat multiple times per day.

Eventually, Dawn will fly its spaceplanes as a fleet – taking off and landing from airports and spaceports around the world.