Sponsored Content by The Aerospace Corporation

The Space Domain Awareness Challenge Pitch-off and winner announcement

TechCrunch was proud to host The Aerospace Corporation at Disrupt 2023 in San Francisco. Here’s an overview of their Pitch-off Challenge on the Space Stage.


The Aerospace Corporation and TechCrunch joined forces to host a pitch competition at Disrupt 2023 to find the strongest startups using AI/Machine Learning to work with satellite data streams. Space Domain Awareness arises from the output of all the sensor data.

Space operators are totally reliant on sensors in space and on the ground to get a complete picture of what’s happening in Earth’s orbit and beyond. Space operators must task sensors correctly with the complex job of collecting data. The challenge is then parsing, packaging and disseminating the output of a significant number of data streams to the correct data consumer across various teams at the correct time.

We call this scenario in Space Domain Awareness the “Media Streaming Problem” because, just like popular streaming providers, the data has to be collected, analyzed and delivered to the correct audience at the right time.

Five finalists got the rare opportunity to pitch in front of our judges on the Space Stage, as well as exhibit their AI/ML startup. One winner was chosen to receive the opportunity for a customer roadshow and expert-led concept feedback session.

WINNER: Dr. Stacey Jones, O-Analytics 


Cullen Greenfield, Program Manager, Space Portfolio, Defense Innovation Unit

Commander Cullen Greenfield is a Program Manager in the Space Portfolio at the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and a Navy Surface Warfare Officer. Before joining DIU he served as the Secretary of Defense Executive Fellow at SRI International, an independent nonprofit research institute that supports government and industry and develops and commercializes world-changing products, technologies and innovations. In his most recent operational assignment Cullen served as the Commanding Officer of the USS GERMANTOWN (LSD 42). In recent policy and staff roles he served as the Defense Legislative Fellow for Senator Roger Wicker, and as the Aide-de-Camp to the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Tess Hatch, Partner, Bessemer Venture Partners

Tess invests in technology and people who believe as strongly as she does that frontier technology will develop solutions for societal problems. She is a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, fostering entrepreneurship of frontier technology, specifically the commercialization of space, drones, autonomous vehicles, and agriculture and food technology. Tess is passionate about space exploration and imagines a future where we all travel to space. She hopes to one day take a trip herself.

Ian McCubbin, Startup and VC Program Manager, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Over the last 25 years, Ian McCubbin has watched the commercial space, climate observing systems and climate mitigation technologies evolve. For the last four years, he has served as Program Manager and Lead Mentor for JPL’s startup and VC engagement program. Here he has developed mentorship skills in collaborating with new startup companies for the commercialization of Space Economy, Earth observing and climate change-related technologies.