For years, Peter Platzer was pretty close to a stereotypical rocket scientist on Wall Street — he was trained as a high-energy physicist, but he spent most of his professional career in finance. But he told me he’s always had an interest in space exploration, and now he’s working on an aerospace startup called NanoSatisfi, which just raised $1.2 million in seed funding.
Platzer said he avoided the industry in the past because it was slow and government-dominated, with little innovation. It took an enormous amount of time and money to launch satellites, which meant that the technology on those satellites lagged behind what was available on the ground.
“We don’t have Moore’s Law in space,” Platzer said.
That’s changing with the advent of nanosatellites, which are smaller and cheaper than satellites or microsatellites. For example, NanoSatisfi plans to launch two ArduSats this year, each one a cube with 10 centimeter sides and weighing about 1 kilogram, and they’re equipped with cameras, a Geiger counter, a spectrometer, a magnetometer, and more. ArduSats are designed to be active for about two years, at which point they’re replaced by new ones incorporating the latest technology. For example, even though the second ArduSat is launching only a few months after the first, its camera will actually be more powerful, thanks to rapidly dropping prices.
Ultimately, the company wants to create “a constellation of nanosatellites that get updated on a regular basis,” Platzer said. The first satellites will be used for science experiments and education. Access to the satellite costs $250 a week, and supporters signed up and contributed to the project on Kickstarter. Last summer’s campaign shot past its $35,000 goal and ended up raising $106,330. And the company plans to host an ArduSat Academy this summer, where students learn more about the technology and can compete to run their experiments on the second satellite.
NanoSatisfi isn’t just focused on science projects — once it gets more satellites in place, NanoSatisfi can start selling some “very attractive data services” to a number of different industries, Platzer said.
After the Kickstarter campaign, Platzer funded the company with his own money. The new funds were raised from individual investors using the new AngelList/SecondMarket partnership. Since it’s, y’know, building satellites (or rather assembling them, often using components built by other companies) I asked if NanoSatisfi will need a much bigger round to really grow the company. Platzer said it shouldn’t require much more capital than other startups — his target for the eventual Series A is $10 million.
“It is literally similar in capital efficiency of PCs versus mainframes,” he said.
As for that first launch, it’s scheduled for July 15, and Platzer said the satellite is being taken up on one of the resupply missions for the International Space Station. Even though there’s always some uncertainty, he said those flights tend to be “the most secure and safe and well-guarded.”
The startup is being incubated in San Francisco’s hardware-focused Lemnos Labs — it’s Lemnos’ first aerospace startup, but Lemnos co-founder Jeremy Conrad sounds pretty excited about the industry, so it probably won’t be the last.
Lemnos Labs, a hardware incubator based in San Francisco, provides mentorship and resources to talented engineers with innovative ideas and a passion for making things. We believe that advances in rapid prototyping have paved the way for a new generation of hardware startups by reducing the time and resources required to bring a product to market. We aim to lead this charge by accelerating breakthrough technologies that solve real-world problems.
NanoSatisfi aims to provide convenient, affordable, on-demand access to satellites. To that end, they are developing a space-based application platform, comprised of an AVR/Arduino based computer in a CubeSat standard with a freely programmable micro-processor and 25 sensors. They augument that with a software interface to the web for convenient and affordable access to the payload.