NewSpace Panel | The High Ground: How Constellations and Big Data are Changing Industry

Berin Szoka – President, TechFreedom

Pavel Machalek – Co-Founder and CEO, SpaceKnow

Tiffany Crawford – President and Founder of Space Development Group of Silicon Valley ?

Chris Biddy – Founder and CEO, Aquila Space

Jason Lohn – Senior Engineer, Orbital Insight


Constellations refers to multiple satellites, usually small sats on orbit together, working together. The thought behind the term is that if you look up at night to see the sun reflect off of these satellites then you would see a constellation moving across the sky.

So, most applications seem to be in Earth observing. Small sats, like cubesats, are limited in power and so can transmit data back to the ground but cannot process data in-situ. So this brings up the issue of getting all that data back to the ground, uncompressed. There is talk of establishing a hub of sats whose sole purpose is to process data given to it from other constellations, then transmitting that data back to earth. Sounds neat.

At least one business model that was discussed solved the problem of Moore’s Law, which makes satellites outdated a very short time after their launch. With small sats and cheaper launches (which have been dropping) companies can design the sats with a three year lifetime after which they de-orbit naturally, and replace the old sats with newer ones sooner.

One last issue that was brought up here was debris. Apparently, tiny fragments are the biggest issue but is being ignored. This means that there are thousands of bullets flying around in orbit without anyone knowing where they are located. Good thing the U.S. military has improved body armor over the last decade.


NewSpace  Keynote Presentation  |  Escape Dynamics …. magic? 


Laetitia Garriott – Co-founder, President, and COO, Escape Dynamics


The technology that Escape Dynamics is developing has the potential to seriously push the cost of LEO launches.

Here’s the basics design: A winged body with a rocket cone on the back, short wings, and a shiny plate on the bottom. The plate is a heat exchanger which absorbs microwaves beamed from the surface of the planet. That powers the hydrogen fueled rocket engine all the way from launch to space. This is the key technology. The fuel load needed for launch is much less, there is no damage from a violent reaction such as a chemical rocket has. The plane takes off vertically just as other rockets, gets to LEO to release the payload, returns to orbit using the heat exchanger as the primary heat shield, the lands horizontally like a plane. Ideally, there is an inspection of the spacecraft then it can be ready for relaunch in a short time.

Some of my first thoughts: What happens to the payload with all those microwaves being beamed onto the craft? (faraday cage) Can this energy transfer tech be used for other uses such as powering electronics on a smaller scale? (probably) What technologies have been proven so far? YES

The microwave dishes will need to track the fast moving target (spacecraft). A small drone has been tracked successfully at lower power. This drone had a small LED on the bottom which was powered by the dish.

The biggest part of this puzzle is the heat exchange. This was tested and seems to have been successful as well.

My personal opinion is that this tech could prove to be extremely successful. I would bet on this if I could!