SAN FRANCISCO – Six startups based in four countries are joining the 2023 Hyperspace Challenge, an accelerator run by the Air Force Research Laboratory and CNM Ingenuity with support from the U.S. Space Force Space Rapid Capabilities Office.
The 2023 Hyperspace Challenge cohort includes U.S. companies Lexset.ai, Phase Four and TRL11, plus Australia’s High Earth Orbit Robotics, England-based Magdrive and Dawn Aerospace of the Netherlands.
“While we were intentional about opening this year’s Hyperspace Challenge to international companies, we didn’t quite know what to expect,” Matthew Fetrow, Space RCO communications manager, told SpaceNews. “Having three companies from outside the U.S. is going to add a richness of diversity to the conversation. So much great tech happens outside the U.S. We want to tap into that.”
Autonomy, Maneuverability, Situational Awareness
The 2023 Hyperspace Challenge focuses on technologies to improve spacecraft resiliency, including autonomy, maneuverability and situational awareness. Three of the participating companies, Dawn, Magdrive and Hawthorne, California-based Phase Four, supply propulsion systems for small satellites. Dawn also sells bolt-on satellite collision avoidance kits.
In addition to the propulsion companies, the 2023 Hyperspace Challenge includes:
- High Earth Orbit Robotics, an Australian camera system specialist;
- Lexset.ai, a synthetic data company based in Brooklyn, New York; and
- TRL11 of Irvine, Calif., a firm focused on image processing technology.
“Hyperspace Challenge astutely recognizes that the future of a sustainability space ecosystem requires more collaborative thinking and innovation,” Gabe Mounce, director of the AFRL Tech Engagement Office in New Mexico, said in a statement. “We are committed to finding ways for government and enterprise to break down silos and work together. Cohorts like this year’s program, foster a creative mindset and model a united approach that is more adept at delivering a rapid response to the real-world needs of the growing space economy.”
Through the Hyperspace Challenge, companies will gain insight into the types of products and services government space agencies need. At the conclusion of the six-week program, participating companies should “walk away some tangible next steps towards working with the government,” said Kelly Stafford, Hyperspace Challenge senior program manager. “How do they get to the next level and how do we get them to deployment ultimately?”
On the government side, “our ultimate goal is to have some way forward where the Space Force could take advantage of the products or services that these companies have,” Fetrow said. “We have to know about the products and services, and understand how they fit into our needs within the government.”
During a series of virtual meetings in October and on-site meetings in Albuquerque, New Mexico in early November, participating companies also will learn about federal rules and regulations, which vary for U.S. and foreign companies.
For international firms, “there are different rules, but the Space Force in general is committed to working through those things,” Fetrow said. “I like to joke, ‘We do paperwork all the time. We might as well do a little bit more to work with the right partners, even if they’re not in the U.S.’”