The space industry is evolving, as are the tools it uses; Epsilon3 is a startup trying to make launches, satellite design, rocket manufacturing, and other complex processes easier and more collaborative. The company has found its tools have uses beyond space and growing traction across the board has led to a $15 million in new investment.
It wasn’t long ago that Epsilon3 raised its $2.8 million seed round, having been founded in early 2021 by SpaceX veteran Laura Crabtree, Max Mednik from Epirus and former Googler Aaron Sullivan. The idea is simply stated but difficult to achieve: make an operating system for the modern space industry.
Companies working to create new satellites, rocket parts and so on often use software from long ago because, like using “flight tested” hardware, the industry is in some ways very technologically conservative. If it ain’t broke, don’t update it. But while that worked up to a point, these legacy tools don’t meet the needs of fast-moving startups, and it’s these that Epsilon3 is aimed at.
To be clear, this isn’t an alternative to Windows or macOS but rather to the suites of software tools used for decades to design, approve, implement and track things like iterative part design. This tends to involve lots of data, multiple parties checking everything multiple times, and ultimately a sort of stew of interconnected (or totally disconnected) platforms old and new.
Since January the company has seen growth not just in the space industry but in adjacent sectors and even totally unrelated ones, suggesting there’s a real hunger for improvement here.
On the space side, the company noted (with some surprise) that the software was involved in quite a lot of recent orbital activity. “We looked at year to date launches, and 20% of those teams are using Epsilon3,” said Mednik. Considering the company only started operations last year and got its seed in January, that’s impressive.
But you might wonder why something suited to building satellites is at all good for fintech or other enterprise type customers.
“It’s been really surprising for us — basically they’re both complicated,” Mednik explained. “It boils down to the fact that even business workflows and processes often involve multiple departments, multiple people giving approvals, data going back and forth to multiple people and multiple stages the work goes through. There are written procedures for these things, and when they’re safety critical or mission critical they need to be tracked closely — like for compliance. And they’re often using tools like a wiki or confluence or even just a Google Doc; this is exactly the kind of thing that Epsilon3 can help with — it’s just not testing a new engine, it’s setting up a new vendor.”
“We’re very much still focused on the space industry and space adjacent — launch, satellite operations, testing — and also what adjacent industries might need as well, like automotive, fusion, renewables and E-VTOL,” Crabtree said. “But if other companies like fintech want to come forth and use our software, that’s great.”
They emphasized that their non-space customers are still very much the minority, as the tools continue to be built with launch, orbit and aerospace in mind.
They’ve added a few features recently — one in particular that was in high demand is the ability to draw in live data from other databases that can’t be integrated otherwise. So a standards or inventory database can be pinged whenever necessary to tell a person or workflow whether they have enough stock to cover a manufacturing plan. Epsilon3 also works offline now, syncing back up when you have a connection again — useful for when you’re doing testing out in the New Mexican desert. And data coming in from another source (like a satellite) can now trigger workflows within the OS, “if this then that” style.
The features are mainly driven by feedback, Crabtree said: “We listen to what our customers want — we’ve got a very long list of requests, but we also have our own product vision.”
Though the company has targeted startups and businesses on the smaller side, that’s just the beginning of its ambitions.
“We just started supporting our first government customer, the 45th, out at the Cape,” said Crabtree (that is to say, the 45th Space Wing at Cape Canaveral). “We’d like to expand to some of the primes and also other startups — we were formulated to support startups.”
The $15 million in funding should help hurry things along. The round was led by Lux Capital, with participation from Moore Strategic Ventures, Y Combinator (of which Epsilon3 is a graduate) and MaC Venture Capital.