Building Out Commercial Operations in Orbit

A new crop of companies are working on establishing permanent commercial operations in orbit and on the moon. But they likely won’t be able to do it without partnerships with government and defense. We’ll talk to leaders from Quantum Space, ispace and the United States Space Force about how these partnerships can foster a thriving orbital economy.

All right gentlemen thank you for Joining me today on stage it's great to Be talking with you Um I think it's safe to say that there Has never been more opportunity for Commercial companies to build in space Build in orbit Um this conversation should be Interesting because we have Two people who are building companies But one of them has a background at Nasa And of course we have Colonel Roth who Is from the U.S space force Um so Steve maybe to start with you you As I just mentioned had this very long Career at Nasa including as acting Administrator and then upon retirement You make this pivot into Private Industry what were the biggest changes Surprises moving between a sort of Washington culture and uh sort of Private Industry culture yeah sure so Um I knew I wanted to do something Different after I retired from NASA and I certainly am doing something really Different after every massive and Starting an early stage you know startup Company so there are several things that Have been different and challenging for Me Um the first is money any organization Needs funding right and I knew the the Uh the pbbe process you know that was Talked about earlier inside and out you

Know I knew how to work with OMB to Propose budgets I knew how Congress Um you went through the Appropriations Process and and how to work that what I Had zero experience in was Raising Private Capital just zero experience in In raising venture capital and obviously For an early stage startup that is super Critical and important so that's been an Incredible learning experience for me And um and right now we're in the Process of closing our series a round I Was hoping to have it uh closed by last Week and be able to make an announcement Today didn't quite get there so look for A press release from us in the next Probably three to seven days on our Major investor for our series a round But so far so good and of course our Owner and executive chair who also Started and is the executive chair of Axiom space and intuitive machines and a Nuclear energy company called xenergy And also Cloud space cam gefarian Um is this amazing has this amazing Network of high net worth individuals VCS and uh and institutional investors That I'm not sure I would have taken This leap without joining somebody like Cam who has that experience Um the second thing is just the pace at Which we're able to move and make Decisions Um you know we get you know at Nasa

We've got to have you know 10 meetings And a council and a board and several Reviews and then all the information Would come to me and I would ultimately You know pull the team and make a Decision and then we get into meetings At Quantum space and it's like okay Steve we have option A B and C which one Do you want to do and so it was it was Uh freeing and refreshing and also a Little scary so that just but in order To be successful you need to move at a Certain pace and the third thing was I Was in a meeting with a former colleague Um who left and to also start an Aerospace company and um in the middle Of the meeting he looks at me and he Goes Steve this is not about creating Capability this is about generating Revenue so at Nasa it was really about Creating capability and do admissions Within the budget that we could get and Now it's all about generating revenue And generating value for our customers And really understanding what our Customers need and and how we can Deliver that value and and and uh and Make their make them successful on Executing their mission so this is Essentially the kind of like the three Fundamental things that uh were very Different from my 32 years at Nasa Almost 20 years in management and Leadership uh versus being the president

CEO of a startup those are big big Changes yeah Takeshi I want to bring you Into this Um you have been working on icebase for About 12 years now so you're a little Bit further along at least in sort of The startup Journey than Steve and Thinking sort of from first principles What are the sorts of things if you are Starting out if you are maybe closing on Seed or series a Um what are the things that you really Should be thinking of in order to Position yourself for success in the Long term Well uh we're three three years is a Very long time to survive and then we Have a lot of up and down and um I would say several principles the one Is as Steve said the generating revenue Is very important to show the what is Our business to to make or generate the The revenue in the future and So the and then also in order to make Revenue anyway we need Money we mean we need to take care of The cost and then so the if the space Industry many people think that Technology is very important it's not uh Wrong however the more important is Money to start something we need money We need higher people we need to kill Something and then uh thinking about the Financing is our first things to do even

The a technology company and then uh That is from the beginning my uh Interest is how to raise money to start What we want to do and Yeah so that that is I think the very Important and then I also uh met with The uh very good uh persons uh helped me Many of the people uh will come to Come around me to help however there's a Few people actually help me uh and then So please find the good people who Commit to help you at the early stage That is I think they're very important And there are there are a few different Ways we've heard a lot about the Importance of money uh there are a few Different ways to acquire it to to get It Um Colonel Roth I want to bring you in Because the space force has Opportunities for startups Um can you talk a little bit about what Those look like and maybe demystify the Procurement process for us yeah Absolutely uh want to share with the Audience here and it's great to have a Very large audience I know I was at the First uh Tech crunch space sessions last Year and due to covid we could only Allow 100 in uh to attend but really Important we are going through uh kind Of a second space Renaissance a lot of Interest in the commercial sector a lot

Of Investments uh uh Venture Capital Funds funding great ideas in space and So part of the space force and and where I work space systems gland is we're Trying to make it easier to work with Different commercial companies and our Industry Partners we've created a couple Different organizations for that but the Uh first and foremost your entry point Into the space force and space systems Command is through the SSC front door That's your One-Stop shop especially if You're a small business you've never Worked with the government before Um or you're a non-traditional you may Be a larger company and are looking for Ways to uh get into the market and the Space force and satisfy some of our Needs so we have a website just go out Google space systems command front door And you'll start to see all the partners We work with we do events in Industry Days we do a special thing called Reverse industry days where we go out to The commercial industry and have One-on-one sessions with a lot of Companies and you tell us what we should Be investing in and capabilities that The commercial Market has so really Important for that we've also Established the Commercial Services Office this is a dedicated office to Support our program executive office Officer executing acquisition programs

For the space force so actually going After commercial strategies that get After a useful space force needs and Speaking of those strategies we have a Three pillar approach we have exploit What you have buy what you can and only Build what you must on the only build What you must category very important Those are National capabilities such as GPS missile missile warning missile Tracking things that are important Important to U.S national security we Will continue to have traditional Acquisition programs focused on that but We're trying to do a paradigm shift to Focus on Commercial due to the pacing Challenge we have with the strategic Competition with China and so making Sure we stay ahead of that threat and Our industry is key to that and so we Can deter conflict in space Following up on that and Steve it would Be great if you could chime in as well From a kind of NASA perspective although I know you're no longer with the agency But Um what what how do the opportunities And different programs how do they Differ If you're sort of very early Stage and maybe you're a more mature Company Yeah so you know we Um have several different program Organizations at Nasa right and the

Organization that I used to run was the Space technology Mission directorate and I think that directorate is a great Entry point particularly for early stage Companies we had we released two the Inaugural solicitations for two programs While I was there one was Tipping Point Technologies Um public private Partnerships with Companies to get their technology Through the valley of death as you Mentioned earlier take out TRL level Four five six and eventually to seven And fly it in space to help them Accelerate their business plans and Develop products and capabilities that NASA and other government agencies need So and then there's announcement of Collaborative opportunity where no There's no stage of funds between NASA And the company but we offer the Capabilities of people and facility NASA I'm never going to get over that NASA Offers the capabilities of people and Facilities at the centers to help Against accelerate the plans and NASA Funds the NASA part of it and the Company funds the company part of it so Just a couple examples so early stage Definitely Um you know space technology now I I got To give you're going to hear from Thomas Book and the associate administrator for Science later and I got to give Thomas

This team a lot of credit for the Commercial lunar payload Services Program right and um because they Selected Um particip there's a definite delivery Definitely quantity contract they Selected participants that had no Previous space flight experience had not Launched anything right and they took That risk right and they knew they were Going to select several missions with Several different contractors and Thomas Is from Switzerland so he's a hockey guy He talks about shots on goal right and Hopefully most of them are going to hit Right but if one doesn't that's okay so Also there's opportunity there and then Um you know I give NASA credit for Um cots and then the commercial cargo Contracts right that was they could NASA Could take the risk there because there Was fairly low dollar value stuff Underwear water freeze-dried food Science experiments so you pis I know Your Pi's experiments are precious and They're maybe not super high dollar Value and they could take the risk there And we had two failures we had a failure With NASA out of failure with Northrop And a failure with SpaceX and that was Okay commercial crew was a little bit Different no no failures there right and Um it was so interesting how the Relationship between NASA and Boeing and

NASA and SpaceX evolved over time And how you know SpaceX ended up getting To orbit first I actually chaired the Flight Readiness review for the demo 2 Flight with Bob benkin and Doug Hurley And signed the certification of flight Readiness that we were ready to go and Fly Bob and Doug and and that was an Amazing day because it was May Um of 2020. we were like a couple of Months into covid when we flew the demo 2 flight and it was pretty amazing Accomplished by both the NASA and the SpaceX team so so so for you know for For companies that are farther along and More mature Um there there will be continued Opportunities like a commercial cargo Commercial crew and the human Landing System where NASA is buying services and Not buying operating and owning systems Well I think that ecosystem is really Important both with civil space and National Security space but it's Investments small investments in this Ecosystem those small companies they Grow larger they provide more and more Capability and as they experiment and Prototype we try and move them along That TRL level until we can transition Technologies across the Valley of Death Many of you may be aware of an Organization we have in space systems Command that does that and I would

Encourage small business to reach out as The space Works program where small Investments on our sibber and sitter Programs can help your companies develop And mature their Technologies and then Eventually demonstrate those on on orbit And it's a whole ecosystem things that We invested in 10 years ago are starting To pay off pay dividends now especially In technology areas such as space domain Awareness Um I'll give you an example a real uh World example from experience in my Other hat running the Innovation and Prototyping Delta we have an operations Floor where we fly a lot of experimental And prototype satellites we had an Anomaly on one of those satellites and a Commercial company that I won't name Here in this audience but reached out to Us to say that our satellite was Tumbling and from that we took that Information and data we're able to Analyze what exactly went wrong with That satellite and get it back into Operations fairly quickly and that was a Commercial company that had developed From Air Force research lab Investments And gradually matured the company and we Also have space systems command Investments in that same market area for Space domain awareness and then now They're providing real world capability Today and it's a lot like NASA with

Commercial launch and if we could Leverage what you're doing out there in The commercial markets we can get there Faster and cheaper and develop systems That are definitely more effective Private Industry can Leverage The kind of directives that that NASA is Creating foremost amongst which of Course is the Artemis program which is Really shaping much of what Private Industry is is working on Um ispace has been interested in the Moon for a very long time Um You're a Japanese company you have a U.S Subsidiary Can you talk a little bit about the Process of going for that clps award That's going to be ispace's third Mission is that right correct uh so are We recently our did uh well NASA Clips Contract through the Draper laboratory We are working with three Parable to Relocate in a Massachusetts Boston and Then they are prime contractor for us And then we are working under uh their Management of the program and we are Essentially providing a transportation Do not transportation service through Durable to the NASA and from the Beginning my way of thinking is this Transportation would help the government Missions a much cheaper way and the more Flexible High frequent missions to the

Original surface to encourage promote More technology demonstrations science Missions and so on so I have been uh Okay watching the opportunity To work with the NASA or the other Space agencies as well and our Uniqueness is we are basically started From Tokyo Japan however now we have an International presence United States in Denver and also the Luxembourg in in Europe and our business is very Global And also the organization itself is very Global International Only the 40 percent of Japanese So quite International and then we want To leverage this International uh how Can say uh basement to work with the age Of the government and then uh in the United States in order to work with the Uh the NASA or the uh the U.S government Uh we we need to qualify as a prime Contractor however uh our uh U.S Subsidiary is not uh qualified as a Prime contractor because owned by the Japanese Japanese headquarters side so We decided to uh I'll take a strategy to Work with the private contractor who is Recognized uh were qualified by United States and then luckily from the Beginning we have been working with drip Around three As you may know they embody NASA uh Upper omissions uh 50 years ago and then They provided a guidance navigation

Control system to upload render and then Uh dripper is providing uh decent Guides Of navigation Control software to our Brand from the office mission so we have Already a great relationship with Draper And the Draper uh accept our Proposal to work together to support in NASA's Mission and then that is very Great collaboration Uh well but international company and The U.S based company organization Working together to support another Program Um we talked a little bit about funding At the beginning of the panel but uh we Didn't touch on it too much so I just Want to return to that Um Takashi ispace has raised a considerable Amount of funding you've gone through Series a series B series C Um I want to hear your thoughts on how Ispace thought about timing those those Rounds and what you sort of Look for from investors and what what a Company should should be getting out of Those relationships well our fundraising Is kind of unique I think the uh the Process uh Maybe uh some of you know that other Artists is our interest the objective is To compete for the Google Express However we run from that activity that

We need to enter the lunar Transportation system as a bit for the Sustainable business So uh having the discussion with uh Early stage investors at the moment He's supporting us uh yet and then As well but uh he but he having the Discussion with him we concluded we need To enter the uh doing around the Development and then provide the Transportation service independently and Then what he said asked to me is how Much you're gonna cost for the one Mission And then I answered uh About 50 million dollars it's quite Challenging uh the level of how can I Say the cost however that was the around The target at the moment And then what he said is answer is reply To me is let's raise hundred million Dollars 100 million dollars space is still hot So He if he hasn't he has he hadn't been a Invested space business yet at the Moment he is the first time to invest in Space business however he has very good Sense of the financing and then look at The business so he said that let's raise 100 million dollars In Japan 100 million dollars quite huge In this Japanese Adventure funding the Market so it was pretty much challenging

However I I thought that is also important to Secure two missions uh funding Simultaneously to keep disability of the Company and the business so uh how and Then at the end we made it it takes two Years actually However uh thanks to such a strategy we Keep surviving right now even if well Because some of the change of the uh Planning and the cost increase so on are We required additional funding Until now however always our strategy is To keep enough cash to support two Missions two missions And Steve what are the other challenges Um before the panel we were chatting and You mentioned sort of supply chain Bottlenecks and those kinds of things You need to think about when raising as Well can you talk about that yeah sure I Mean we we started off Um really focused on what we're called What we call the robotic Outpost a Fairly large spacecraft for robotic Capability for with bonding food Proximity operations to do servicing but Then we sort of saw there was a need for More capabilities than that in CIS lunar Space right including space domain Awareness and I include space weather Right because you want to know if it's a Natural phenomenon missing with you or An adversary messing with you as well as

Other capabilities such as Communications pnt and Edge Computing Beyond Earth orbit and this huge volume Of space called CIS lunar space so now We've have a broader strategy with three Different types of spacecraft Um and the deploy a fleet of spacecraft To provide SDA and other services in in CIS lunar so that significantly Increased our funding needs and our Funding timeline and and we had to Adjust our fundraising strategy also Um we announced our first mission a few Weeks ago in conjunction with AIA Ascend Conference we call Economy space one qs1 Not very creative but it works and um And we announced Partnerships with two Companies geost in Tucson Arizona which Is going to provide an SDA sensor for us They also provides based on an SDA Sensor that's providing to a government Agency a derivative of that and then Blue Canyon Technologies that's going to Provide our spacecraft bus so we work With both of those you know Partners Slash suppliers to identify the timeline For development and both of those Um Activities are sort of front and loaded With respect to funding and the reason For that is to provide the funding to Buy the long lead procurement items Um for example avionics now because of Submarine deduct or supply chain

Disruptions very long lead time on Processors and avionics and so we had to Put up additional cash up front with one Of those companies so they can place the Order and for the 12 or 13 month long Lead time so we can make our schedule And launch our first mission in fourth Quarter of 2024. so we've worked that We've worked that out with each supplier On a case-by-case basis to see where the Chain the bottlenecks in their supply Chain are and then work with them to Make sure we got a schedule that works Given those challenges Um So you said for the fourth quarter of of 2024. yeah our right now we're targeting October of 2024 to launch our first Spacecraft and it'll uh we're still Working the details out but most likely Go to uh Earth Moon L2 first and spend a Few months there there's some Interesting things to observe in Earth Moon L2 and it'll transition the Earth Moon L1 and we'll spend several years in Earth Moon now one uh both searching the Sicilian volume for resonant space Objects as well as acquiring and Tracking those objects okay Um there's you know investors provide Hopefully more than just a check though So can you talk about what you uh are Getting out of those relationships so Far and what you were sort of looking

For sure Um so first Um you know we uh we draw on their Experience with investing in other Companies particularly in the space Sector and what has worked from a Management and operation standpoint and What was it what hasn't so that's first And foremost drawing their experience Second they help us with additional Investors to seek out additional Investors additional opportunities as we Move close our series a round and move Into our series B round And then they also help us with Recruiting Um they particularly in really Challenging skill areas one of the one Of the things one one of the things That's enabling for our company is to Take advantage of artificial Intelligence and machine learning Technology we're actually going to have A two teraflop processor on board our Spacecraft for our first mission and so We not only want to process data on the Ground using AIML technology but also on Board with that incredible compute power To lower the latency and provide near Real-time warning of events and so they Particularly help us with uh recruiting In those fields that are not necessarily Aerospace but are critical to Our Success like artificial intelligence and

Machine learning Um so we're coming up on just a couple Of minutes Um before we close out the panel but I Wanted to hear from all of you Um We're we're thinking about this this Future maybe by the end of the decade We'll have humans back on the moon Etc We'll we'll have Landers on the moon We'll have Platforms in sis lunar space Um what are the biggest bottlenecks that Still currently exist technological Maybe political to get us to that future The one I see from uh inside the the Space force in the U.S government is Really leveraging that commercial uh Viability we're structured to develop And run programs but how do we do a Different paradigm shift to a new model Where we're investing in commercial Companies I mean it's pretty cool to be Up here sitting next to two companies That are going to the Moon uh or going Into sis lunar orbit and pretty amazing To see that push from our industrial Base so how do I leverage that in the Future and I think we really need to Focus on a couple key areas is that Modular systems architecture so it can Support both commercial and potentially Military utility up there I want to buy Things if it's already developed by the Commercial industry how can I buy that

As a service so if he puts a space Domain awareness sensor on orbit by the Moon can the space force just buy the Data and get it ingested into our space Domain awareness Marketplace and that Small little investment could help a Company establish their commercial Viability as well and how do we Foster And grow that Innovative ecosystem and Ensure that we're interoperable the one Thing based on experience is we don't Want systems that are unique to only one Company and we're locked in for life for That company we want to be flexible so We can encourage competition and make Sure we get the best value for the Taxpayer money and I think your Venture Capital investors want the same thing You want a robust competitive Environment to go after these Technologies and then the more Experiments we do on orbit per day per Month per year per decade bodes really Well for the space economy so the more We can invest on pushing the needle Forward I think there's a fringe benefit For everybody in this room Anything to add yep well uh but it's Related to our Beijing expander products Expanded future we envision to expand Our human presence into outer space and Then that is I think important to keep The security sustainability of the earth As well and in order to that I believe

That we need to create viable economy in Space and then we need to create a Sustainable ecosystem to support the Activity around the in space and then Essentially support the sustainability Of the Earth but someone goes to the Master it's fine but without such a Basement sustainable basement to the Activity in space we don't expect Negative sustainable travel 2D models as Well and then in order to do that we Believe that we need to utilize space Resources and that will be the long-term Direction and then in order to how to Say unlock the the potential the space Resources but now we need to Establish the architecture to uh to to Start investigate the resources and the Uh develop the technology how to utilize The space resources for the future Yeah just real quick uh I think Integration is going to be incredibly Important incredibly challenging across Commercial space and between commercial Space and government so these Capabilities are coming online The Innovation that's being driven by Commercial spaces is really amazing but To really take advantage of there needs To be this integration both from a Business model standpoint and from a Technical standpoint and then as you Guys talked earlier in an early session About security and sustainability we do

Need to come together across the world And develop Norms of behavior in order To behavior for Earth orbit as well as Beyond Earth orbit on uh so we can Ensure the safety and sustainability of Our operations both commercial and Government and that's going to be Challenging and uh again I give NASA a Little sort of self-serving since I was At Nasa but I did a great job NASA Credit for the Artemis Accords which Sort of set out a set of norms of Behavior and they NASA basically said Actually of my gold a lot of credit Who's read ryer right now but he was With NASA I give Mike a lot of credit For being an architect of the Artemis Accords and which set out a set of norms Of behavior and NASA said hey if you Want to work with us on Artemis you need To sign up to the Artemis Accords and These norms and so I think that's going To be also really important Okay thanks guys Great conversation thank you thank you

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