Caught on film (5/23/23)
Good morning. As of this weekend, 600 people have traveled beyond the Kármán line and into Earth’s orbit. Let’s see how high we can get that number over the next 60 years of space exploration.
🎥 TRL11 pre-seed
🎙️ Pathfinder #0048
🔁 People on the move
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Exclusive: TRL11 Raises $3M for Space Video
TRL11, a startup aiming to bring advanced video production and monitoring capabilities to the space domain, has raised a $3M pre-seed to scale up its team and production.
Boost VC led the round, which also included participation from Wonder VC, Anorak, Geek Ventures, Space Cadets, and several angel investors, including Launcher founder Max Haot.
TRL11 101: CEO and founder Nicolaas Verheem hails from the world of media and entertainment, where he founded a company, Teradek, that allowed productions to shoot video wirelessly with no delay in transmission for the first time. Now, with TRL11, he is bringing his expertise in low-latency video technology to the space domain.
The name references Technology Readiness Levels, a government measure of tech viability—on a scale from one to nine. “And we wanted to say, ‘Always take it to 11,’” Verheem told Payload.
While Verheem sees various potential uses for video in space, TRL11 is first planning to tackle space situational awareness—specifically, self-awareness.
“The last two Soyuz spacecraft that docked with the space station both sprang a coolant leak,” Verheem said. “That leak wasn't detected using a sensor. It was seen on live video. So you can see stuff really quickly and unambiguously, in a way that's very informative, and then you can react to it quick enough.”
TRL11 launched its first payload with Launcher aboard Transporter-6, but an upstream satellite failure meant that the instrument was never turned on. “If we had video on that spacecraft, even with a very small amount of video with very little data, we would have known exactly what's going on,” Verheem said.
The next mission, launching next month aboard Launcher’s Orbiter craft on Transporter-8, will attempt to make just those kinds of observations.
Growing the market: Verheem sees that video capability applied across other spacecraft—OTVs in particular—to identify potential problems with deployment so they can be addressed quickly, before they become mission-ending anomalies. From there, as available bandwidth from space increases, other applications could rise to the surface:
EO, augmenting existing geospatial intelligence with video observation from space
Increased awareness for proximity and rendezvous operations
Looking ahead: Until now, Verheem has been self-funding TRL11, which currently consists of eight full-time employees working remotely and, on occasion, out of the Launcher HQ in LA. With this $3M round, TRL11 is looking to ramp up hiring, lease permanent office space, and scale up its capabilities and production.
“I'm hoping to do at least two flights per quarter, so eight to 10 flights a year,” Verheem said, “quickly develop the product, and then build partnerships and start monitoring spacecraft.”
Meet Nightingale 1
CesiumAstro’s complete communications solution requiring only data and power connections—a true out-of-the-box active phased array payload. Built with modular, software-defined digital components, Nightingale 1 supports TDD (time division duplex) communication and mission data downlink.
•Flight-ready payload – combines backend modules with an antenna
•Phased array – no body pointing of satellite or gimbled antenna required
•Used for high-speed downlink
Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with offices in Broomfield, Colorado; El Segundo, California; and the United Kingdom, CesiumAstro builds high-throughput, software-defined phased array communications payloads for airborne and space platforms, including satellites, missiles, UASs, and more. CesiumAstro's full-stack, multi-mission hardware and software solutions enable a range of commercial, government, and defense objectives. CesiumAstro provides full in-house design, manufacturing, and testing capabilities based on the ISO AS9100 standard.
The Future of Space Tourism, and Pathfinder #0048 with Taber MacCallum & Jane Poynter
Space travel is about to get a lot more accessible. At least, that’s what Space Perspective cofounders and co-CEOs Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter are saying.
The company’s aim is to provide the quintessential astronaut experience to as many people as possible, focusing not on the rocket ride or microgravity, but on the view of Earth from space.
Using its Neptune Spaceship—a capsule suspended beneath a high-altitude balloon—the firm promises a six-hour journey to the edge of space. Rather than a supersonic jaunt, guests are offered a leisurely two-hour climb to over 100,000 feet, ample time to appreciate the Earth's curvature from panoramic windows (and grab a few drinks at the Neptune’s bar), followed by a gentle descent.
The company's flexible launch-and-recovery solution could be a game-changer in the space tourism industry, offering operational advantages over traditional rocket launches, which can be easily delayed by weather or other common technical challenges.
With a price tag of $125,000, this trip won't be a part of everyone's daily grind. However, the experience is more democratized than any other sub-orbital journey on the market today. The company is targeting its first commercial launch in late 2024, with a few test launches coming up in between.
A sneak peek…
In today’s Pathfinder podcast, Mo chats with both Taber and Jane from Space Perspective’s HQ near Cape Canaveral, FL. They discuss:
Taber and Jane’s life’s work supporting crewed spacecraft
The origins of Space Perspective
The importance of seeing Earth from above
The advantages of balloon-based tourism
Space Perspective vs. competitors
The future of space tourism
And much more…
Pathfinder #0048 is live now…
…check it out on YouTube, Apple, Spotify, or desktop. And reply to this email to let us know what you think!
In Other News
Ax-2 successfully docked with the ISS, and the four crew members boarded the station.
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, an underwater volcano that erupted in 2022, produced plasma bubbles that interfered with space-based radio communication.
Phase One revealed a new space camera, the iXM-SP150, at GEOINT.
SpaceX requested to join the FAA as a co-defendant in a lawsuit brought forth by environmental groups after Starship’s orbital test flight.
The Spaceport Company conducted four proof-of-concept launches yesterday on its floating launch pad.
On the Move
Albedo formed a strategic advisory board of former senior intelligence and defense officials. The board includes Joan Dempsey, John Deutch, and Vice Admiral Bob Sharp (ret) (via Payload).
Satellogic ($SATL) promoted Sebastien Prioris to chief product officer. Prioris spent the last nine months serving as VP of product.
SpinLaunch brought on Matthew Mejía as CFO & CSO. Mejía has 20+ years of experience in aerospace finance, investment banking, and consulting.
AIAA tapped Caroline Emmert as forum content manager for ASCEND.
CesiumAstro named Hinrich J. Woebcken as senior executive advisor. Woebcken is a GP at Trousdale Ventures and former president of Volkswagen America.
Iridium ($IRDM) welcomed Jacqueline Yeaney, a former EVP and CMO at Tableau Software, to its board.
Synthetaic tapped former NGA director Robert Cardillo to join its board
Pres. Biden nominated Anna M. Gomez for the vacant FCC commissioner position.
The View from Space
NSF’s Daniel K. Inouye telescope in Maui has captured some razor-sharp images of the Sun’s roiling surface.