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Adventures In Deep Space

A blog about turning our "crazy" big idea to transform deep space exploration into a real company (click on header above to view this blog's home page)

Introduction and Welcome (aka "pinned post")

October 14, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

I've chosen this "open" approach to pursuing the ideas discussed here in the form of a startup, because the "moat" (startup speak) this company will erect lies not in some secret insight, but in the actual execution of the idea: Apply modular design and production line techniques to dramatically reduce the cost to manufacture satellites and satellite components, thus empowering public sector, commercial and academic researchers worldwide to cost-effectively explore the solar system. In combination with anticipated radical decreases in the “cost to launch” beyond Earth orbit, the Ultra Low Cost Satellite Bus (ULCSB) will make deep space research a routine and ongoing process, instead of being a once in a generation / once in a lifetime event.

Neptune and Uranus were visited, for the first and last time, in 1979 by Voyager 2. That means, for a lot of you reading this, that this doesn't even qualify as a "once in a lifetime" event! Our "moat", if anything, exists in the form of skepticism that this is technically doable, financially feasible, or even worth doing: "Who would ever want data about Neptune?" as one commenter put it.

If this vision excites you, read on, and if you're really motivated to make this real, join me! I'm looking for a technical co-founder (or two) to help make this real. This blog, more than anything else, is meant for the engineer looking to do something "great", and seeking a partner who can help on the non-engineering side of things. I've multiple startups under my belt (successful, and otherwise) and a lifetime of professional and personal contacts I intend to leverage on behalf of this project. I can be reached at tvleavitt@space.org and my business (consulting) phone is: 831-469-3382. For more about me, professionally, see my LinkedIn profile.

Highlighted entries ← click here for my "elevator pitch", among other things.

Tags: welcome, vision, recruiting

Applications: Interferometric Telescope Constellations

October 14, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

As my partner and I have dug into the question of how the ability to build inexpensive satellites in volume could be of use (which indirectly relates to the fundamental question any startup must answer: "Who is the customer?") it has occured to us that a space-based interferometric telescope array is a very logical (and cool) application of our technology (see linked PDF for an intro to the concept from the European Southern Observatory / ESO).

Perhaps the most famous instance of this is the Very Large Array in Arizona, which dates back to the 1960s in concept. 28 separate radio telescopes (including a spare) mounted on rails and periodically rearranged for observational purposes. Another now famous example of this is the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), used to image black holes (for the first time) at the center of nearby galaxies, and featured in a Netflix documentary, Black Holes: The Edge of All We Know".

Imagine, instead of a Earth sized "virtual telescope" (such as the EHT), a solar system sized one--or at least, a 1 AU sized one. A "telescope" not obstructed and compromised by having to deal with the earth's atmosphere (i.e., no bright "guide stars" required to make observations, no critical radio frequencies blocked). One that can be expanded on an onging basis as more satellites are added, and that isn't subject to single points of failure or require maintenance and fixes if something goes wrong.

An interferometric telescope of this sort, while not exactly equivalent to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) or Hubble (to cite perhaps the most obvious comparisons), could be deployed at a fraction of the cost, while being more robust, having built in functional redundancy, and unlike JWST, effectively serviceable by sending up new (and better) satellites to replace failed components. It would also be dynamically reconfigurable (far more easily than something like the VLA), so that, depending on the application, parts of it could be pointing at different targets at the same time, only on a much larget scale), if the full array wasn't necessary to do useful science (much like the European Southern Observatory's VLT).

From a business perspective, this provides an immediate and tangible application that simply extends what is already being done (science) both in space and on earth, as opposed to still theoretical applications (which we strongly believe are viable and will happen) such as space mining for water and or minerals.

See our Short List of Inteferometric Telescopes page for links to more information.

Tags: applications, interferometry, telescopes, astronomy

Short List of Inteferometric Telescopes

October 14, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

A space-based interferometric telescope (see linked PDF for an intro to the concept from the ESO) array is a very logical (and cool) application of our technology, and offeres compelling advantages over ground based telescopes from a technical, operational, and political perspective (given the growing opposition of indigenous communities to further expansion of facilities located on sacred ground).

Tags: astronomy, telesopes, interferometry, science, applications

Santa Cruz Acclerates Launch Party, Preliminary Take on Product

October 08, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

My partner and I attended the Santa Cruz Accelerates Launch Party on Wednesday evening. We got free fish tacos and a little bit of networking in. Their theme is "launching your new business into orbit", which kind of messhes well with what Space.Org is doing, LOL.

Here's a picture from the event (more at the URL above), you can find us sitting down in the upper left hand corner of the screen, my partner, John McEntee, is just to the right of me.

Here's a current picture of me to help find us.

Our lead engineer has been working furiously to come up with an initial iteration of the product. Here's a couple of images exported from Solidworks that show sample instantiations of the product design.



Tags: incubators, accelerators, product, events, images

Brief Update: New Logo Prototype, 'Getting to Wow!', networking, development, patience is a virtue

September 29, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

Check out the new logo! Vast improvement over the DIY via SaaS thing I came up with earlier. Still more to do, I think, but very cool. Ironically, and this wasn't at all planned, it's based on the same image that my partner and I used in my first startup at Web Communications, LLC (aka WebCom): NASA's "Earthrise" image.

Not a lot of blogging, because my energy has been focused on other things. Watched Bill Reichert of Pegasus Ventures do an online keynote for the Santa Cruz Founders Institute on the topic of 'Getting to Wow!' on Your Pitch, which is also a title of a book he has on sale at Amazon, Getting to Wow! Silicon Valley Pitch Secrets for Entrepreneurs. Lots of good stuff in it, I took notes. Core concept: every time you open your mouth to talk about your company, you're "pitching". In this age of distraction, you've got 20 seconds to cut through the noise and get someone's attention.

Did a bit of networking this week, trying to set up a couple of more "informational interviews" with folks in the industry. Now that we're a bit farther along (see below), this should be even more interesting and illuminating.

Speaking of "farther along". I've teamed up with a very smart and experienced engineeer / entreprenuer who has a good grasp of the technical aspects of designing and manufacturing satellites and satellite components. He's been working on putting together a draft design in Solidworks (the industry standard for manufacturing oriented 3D CAD) over the past few days. We share the same excitement over the potential this idea has.

One of the things I've (re)learned over the course of the past year and a half, on another project, is that engineering takes time, and happens on it's own schedule (especially in a sweat equity funded startup). Whether it's designing and writing software and systems automation, or hardware design and modeling, it takes time to do it right (and avoid creating more work for your company and engineers down the line).

Tags: logo, reading, thepitch, incubators, design, development, process

Newsworthy

September 17, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

Topical news articles. Everything we see happening in LEO is a precursor and analogue for the eventual development of "deep space", which we think will be not that far behind. Last updated October 5th, 2021

  • Revealed: The secret notes of Blue Origin leaders trying to catch SpaceX - very interesting piece on how SpaceX executes
  • SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission is an inflection point for the orbital economy (2021) - points: "...[the emergence of private sector activity in LEO] will also be an opportunity to prove out ideas about in-space manufacturing, media production, pharmaceutical research, or solar power generation, one of which might prove to be the killer app for human spaceflight in low-earth orbit. ...if the cost comes down, through economies of scale, smart business plans, and further innovation."
  • Changing How We Build Satellites Could Do More Than Reduce Space Junk (2019) - points: "Rethinking .. established procedures, however, could address not just inequity, but other looming challenges in space exploration as well. That's the argument that powers the research of Danielle Wood, who runs a program at MIT's Media Lab, which focuses on how to do things in space that further equity and justice on Earth." ... "Another area in which Wood is working is how satellites are created. "Our current approach mainly depends on doing a design for a satellite that's complete on Earth," Wood said. "We can imagine a future in which there are basically small factories available in space." Incorporating technology like 3-D printing and modular parts, assembly could move to space, changing the engineering problems and costs involved in building satellites."

Tags: news, topical

Starship and Everyday Astronaut

September 10, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

Naturally enough, Everyday Astronaut is paying a lot of attention to SpaceX and what they're doing with Starship, as is pretty much everyone involved with the space industry, "enthusiast" and professional alike. As a part of my "research" process, I'm reviewing the following videos and thought I'd blog about them in the process (check back for updates as that happens), as they're likely to be of interest to anyone reading this blog who hasn't yet come across them. Last updated: September 10th, 2021.

They aim to have it be the cheapest ride to orbit... less than $5 million per launch. Just fuel and personell time, because it is fully reusable (obviously, there has to be some depreciation per launch, but at the intended cost of manufacture, $5 million, that's relatively negligible).

There's a ton of content on this channel, and I do have a life (or sorts) even with the pandemic and my being a "space nut", so I'm not going to look at or comment on every related video, but I will add to this post as I view each listed video, and if / as I watch more.

Tags: vlogs, everyday-astronaut, spacex, starship, elon-musk

Innovation

September 09, 2021 — Thomas Leavitt

Interesting bits on paradigm changing innovative products and designs, not necessarily in space. Disruptive innovation requires a lot of flexibility and patience.

Tags: innovation, design, manufacturing