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June 15, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Start-up founded by Vanderbilt alums building radioisotope-powered satellite

Latest investment comes from a $15 million contract from the Department of Defense and another $15 million from private investors.

Zeno Power, a start-up initiated through the Wond’ry, Vanderbilt University’s Innovation Center, has received a total of $30 million from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and private investors to develop and build a flight-ready radioisotope-powered satellite by 2025.

When that occurs, it is expected to be the first launch of a commercially developed space nuclear system in history. 

According to this news release from the company, the award includes a $15 million contract from the DoD and $15 million from private investors. Led by alumni Tyler Bernstein, Jonathan Segal, and Jake Matthews, Zeno Power’s mission is to provide clean, plug-and-play power, anywhere in the universe. 

Radioisotope power systems (RPSs) convert heat generated by the natural decay of plutonium-238 – a radioactive isotope – into electrical power. An RPS is a compact device that converts heat from decaying radioisotopes into a constant supply of clean energy. RPSs utilizing Plutonium-238 have long been used on marquee government space missions, such as NASA’s New Horizons and the recent Mars 2020 mission. 

Zeno Power was founded in 2018 and completed a $20 million Series A round in April 2022.


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