5 Austin-based space companies

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Some Austin startups are doing work out of this world.


Amidst all the headlines of the Billionaire Space Race – the competition between Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson to launch rockets and perform tourist spaceflight – you might have missed the launch of these Austin projects.

From lunar missions to satellites and training the next generation of space explorers, these Austin startups are at the forefront of space technology:

ICON

A robotics, software and building materials developer known as ICON has shown its materials in 3D printed homes in East Austin and partnered with the Texas Military Department for 3D printed barracks. But they are also making progress on space projects.

Last month, the company announced that it had secured a government research contract that includes funding from NASA to develop a space construction system that could support future exploration of the Moon.

The company now has a space-focused division. CEO Jason Ballard said the company is honored to begin work, which will be known as Project Olympus and Olympus Construction System.

“Building humanity’s first house on another world will be the most ambitious construction project in human history and will push science, engineering, technology and architecture to new heights”, Ballard said. “NASA’s investment in space age technologies like this can not only help advance the future of humanity in space, but also solve some very real and thorny issues that we are facing. face on Earth. ”

Firefly

Even though their September test launch ended in flames, rocket startup Firefly is on schedule for a lunar mission after completing NASA’s design critical review in October. CEO Tom Markusic commented on the milestone, calling it “another milestone in an aggressive timeline”.

“His encounter continues to show the ability of our spacecraft team to consistently do incredible work,” said Markusic. “This mission is a forerunner of what we see as an increasing cadence of recurring payload and data service missions in cis-lunar space that will launch a lunar economy.”

The spacecraft, which has been dubbed the Blue Ghost lunar lander, intends to land in the Mare Crisium lunar basin in September 2023 carrying ten NASA payloads and several commercial payloads.

But they won’t stop there: The 2023 launch will be the first of what they expect to be annual lunar surface missions for Firefly.

Cesium Astro

By building a range of communications systems satellites, UAVs, launchers, and other space platforms, CesiumAstro has raised over $ 14 million in venture capital and is looking to hire a few dozen more in Austin. CEO Shey Sabripour founded the company in 2017 after a stint at Firefly, where he worked as CTO.

In September, CesiumAstro announced the successful launch and deployment of its first 2 satellites, a move Sabripour described as bringing them “one step closer to transforming in-orbit and aircraft connectivity”.

“We will see major breakthroughs over the next decade that will revolutionize a much anticipated era of connected mobility,” said Sabripour. “Our core technology suite is fully enhanced through consistent and frequent testing as we launch our first fleet deployments. ”

Today, CesiumAstro, which prides itself on offering an in-orbit test bed for the next generation of wireless sensing and communication technologies, has entered its next phase of testing. The satellites will perform experiments over the next few months in which the company has offered demonstration partnerships with interested commercial and government organizations.

Slingshot Aerospace

Based in Austin and El Segundo, Calif., Slingshot Aerospace started in 2017 and quickly secured key contracts with NASA, the US Air Force and others.

A contract was with the US Space Force for a tool to train the next generation of space operators and engineers through simulations. But in September, the company announced that it would be available for commercial use through a partnership with STEM3 Academy in an effort to make the space industry more accessible.

“The growing space industry needs the best talent, but many are not trained in the fundamental astro-dynamics of spaceflight, which creates a barrier to entry. We have created a tool that allows companies to integrate the introductory into their training program, opening the doors wide to recruiting, ”said CEO Melanie Stricklan. people interested in space can more easily understand complex methodologies through visual and collaborative learning, allowing them to develop concepts through means of inquiry and exploration, making space for everyone. “

Hypersciences

Working in areas such as clean energy and mining, Hypersciences does not define itself as an orbital space company and has said it is looking to revolutionize several industries. Yet the company specializes in the application of hypersonic technology, which propels engines at speeds five times the speed of sound, and has made aerospace the core of its research. They also provide first stage rocket replacement equipment.

Mark Russell, former chief engineer and director of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, founded the Washington-based company in 2014, joining a team that includes Leon Vanstone, founder of the Texas Rocket Engineering Lab. The startup also has a key office in Austin.

“After years of watching rocket after rocket and trying to predict how they would fail, I realized we needed a new way of flying,” Russell said in an interview with South by Southwest in 2019.

He said he was drilling one night at 2 am, in a hole that was over two miles when he got an “aha!” moment. “I had seen a technology called a dynamic accelerator from the University of Washington where it was just a tube filled with natural gas and air and you could take a projectile and go through it and come out at several times the speed. sound by putting vehicles on the edge of the atmosphere, so you only need a very small rocket to get you into space, ”said Russel.“ That put me on the path to merging aerospace with underground solutions. “

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