19 October 2017
Satellite technology is improving every aspect of our lives and wellbeing, thanks to an ever-expanding range of applications. But for businesses and organisations that are new to space and looking to test their innovative new product or service in space, the associated costs, paperwork, advanced technology and time to orbit can be prohibitive.
At the European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre at Harwell (ESA BIC Harwell), space tech start-up Open Cosmos is changing all that. Having launched its first nanosatellite from the International Space Station earlier this year, and becoming an exporter to 28 different countries, it is not only rocketing on its own way to success, but is also making it achievable for other SMEs, space agencies and developing countries to launch their own applications in space, at a fraction of the cost.
A conventional nanosatellite mission can cost as much as £5 million, and take two to four years to complete. However, Open Cosmos is enabling its customers to do this from as little as £500k, and with launch within 10 months.
Rafel Jorda Siquier, founder and CEO of Open Cosmos, said: “Whether our customers are looking to monitor Earth’s atmosphere or control piracy, we want to use our experience and expertise to simplify the logistics of getting their technologies into orbit. Being at the ESA BIC Harwell has put Open Cosmos in the perfect position to access the specialist technologies and knowhow we needed to refine our qbee nano-satellite platform, connect with the right audiences and make the necessary connections.”
In April this year, and only 18 months after it was founded, Open Cosmos launched its first nanosatellite from the International Space Station. It carried a scientific payload to measure oxygen particles in low Earth orbit to further our understanding of the atmosphere and predict the decay of satellites, to help minimise space debris in the future. The project went from design to delivery in just four months. Since then, the company has invested in process and product innovation to provide a mass-customised end-to-end solution for all aspects of nanosatellite space missions, from spacecraft design to testing, from procurement to launch through to orbit data delivery.
Shortly after this, the company won a contract to be the first Space Mission Provider (SMP) on ESA’s Pioneer partner programme, designed to minimise the current space access barriers for small businesses. An SMP offers public and private customers a one-stop-shop service that covers all aspects of an in-orbit demonstration campaign.
Since 2015, Open Cosmos has become an exporter of products and services to clients in 28 different countries. Furthermore, it has also very quickly expanded to 16 employees, taking advantage of the flexibility for larger lab and office facilities within the ESA BIC Harwell.
Sue O’Hare, Operations Manager at the ESA BIC Harwell said: “Open Cosmos is an inspirational example of how a pioneering start-up, with access to the right technologies, skills and business support at the ESA BIC Harwell, can make such remarkable progress in such a short period of time, whilst simultaneously enabling other business to achieve their own missions. This has far reaching benefits for society and is exactly the kind of thing that the ESA BIC Harwell set out to help early-stage companies achieve. Companies incubated at the ESA BIC Harwell have a 93% success rate, so I’m thrilled to be able to support such a pioneering company through its growth and success.”
Located within the well-established space cluster at the Harwell Campus, the ESA BIC Harwell sits alongside STFC’s RAL Space and the Satellite Applications Catapult and recently celebrated the 50th start-up company to graduate from the centre. It is also one of a wider European network of 17 successful ESA BICs, and part of ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme. It provides 10 companies a year with an impressive, carefully designed support package lasting between one and two years that enables them to harness space-related intellectual property, technologies and expertise through the provision of £41,500 grant funding, access to STFC’s world-class research facilities and skills, and dedicated business support.
The closing date for the next round of applications is 27 October 2017. For further information or to discuss joining the ESA BIC Harwell and the application process please contact Sue O’Hare, Operations Manager.