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Monday, July 10, 2017

Space Business Startups Are Booming

Draper Smooths Pathway for Young Businesses Aiming to ‘Get to Space’ 

CAMBRIDGE – There’s never been a better time to want to take your business into space. Private companies are exploring how to fly to Mars, how to create new satellite networks, how to launch orbiting cell towers and how to make the Moon livable. In 2015 alone, the U.S. aerospace industry added $144.1 billion in export sales to the economy, and entrepreneurs are bullish on the prospects of the new space economy.

Setting your sights on space is one thing. Launching a successful space-based business is another, which is one reason why Draper’s Sembler office is sponsoring the 100th Mass Innovation Nights (MIN) at the Museum of Science, Boston. 

“We believe in the importance of an integrated innovation community,” said Nathan Wiedenman, Director of the Sembler office at Draper. “Sembler is Draper’s way of fostering the development of technology entrepreneurs by giving them a way to leverage Draper’s extensive resources and 80+ years of expertise in solving the world’s toughest engineering problems.”

Draper occupies a special position within the space ecosystem that gives the company deep expertise in what’s required—and how to deliver—commercial technologies that will perform in space. Draper helped put a man on the moon and continues to provide technology, systems and consulting to all three regions of space—terrestrial, in-space and planetary.

A range of companies plan to participate in the MIN event. 

Accion Systems, an in-space propulsion company, is developing novel solutions for low earth orbit, geostationary earth orbit and interplanetary missions. “We hope to support the space ecosystem by providing critical capabilities to satellites and spacecraft of all sizes,” said Accion Systems CEO Natalya Bailey. 

Analytical Space is creating a network of small satellites that will provide a data relay service for remote sensing satellites. ASI COO Dan Nevius said: “Most remote sensing satellites get only a couple of hours of connectivity with the Earth’s surface per day. ASI is creating the infrastructure to allow them to get 24/7 connectivity.”

Lunar Station is focused on making the Moon livable. “Our MoonWatcher Mission will bring the Moon closer to everyone by providing low-latency, near real-time, continual imaging and analysis of the Moon to anyone, anytime and anywhere,” said Lunar Station CEO Blair DeWitt.

VALT Enterprises is developing a small launch vehicle for nanosatellites, a business model that promises to dramatically shorten the time it takes to get nanosatellites into orbit. Karl Hoose, CEO and CTO of VALT, said, “We hope to bring space launch to New England with a launch site off the coast of Maine.”

Additional organizations participating in the MIN event at the Museum of Science include Guardion, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Tellus Labs, The Quantly Group and Upstream Tech. 

Draper’s contributions to these startups build on the company’s legacy of support to commercial space companies and to NASA, which began with Draper’s design of the Apollo guidance computer, and has continued with programs including the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle and the Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser® spacecraft.

Sembler is active in the startup community and serves as a conduit for them to Draper resources and personnel Draper’s Sembler office is sponsoring the 100th Mass Innovation Nights at the Museum of Science, Boston, on July 12
Capabilities Used
Positioning, Navigation & Timing (PNT)

Draper develops novel PN&T solutions by combining precision instrumentation, advanced hardware technology, comprehensive algorithm and software development skills, and unique infrastructure and test resources to deploy system solutions. The scope of these efforts generally focuses on guidance, navigation, and control GN&C-related needs, ranging from highly accurate, inertial solutions for (ICBMs) and inertial/stellar solutions for SLBMs, to integrated Inertial Navigation System(INS)/GPS solutions for gun-fired munitions, to multisensor configurations for soldier navigation in GPS-challenged environments. Emerging technologies under development that leverage and advance commercial technology offerings include celestial navigation (compact star cameras), inertial navigation (MEMS, cold atom sensors), precision time transfer (precision optics, chip-scale atomic clocks) and vision-based navigation (cell phone cameras, combinatorial signal processing algorithms).

Autonomous Systems

Draper combines mission planning, PN&T, situational awareness, and novel GN&C designs to develop and deploy autonomous platforms for ground, air, sea and undersea needs. These systems range in complexity from human-in-the-loop to systems that operate without any human intervention. The design of these systems generally involves decomposing the mission needs into sets of scenarios that result in trade studies that lead to an optimized solution with key performance requirements.  Draper continues to advance the field of autonomy through research in the areas of mission planning, sensing and perception, mobility, learning, real-time performance evaluation and human trust in autonomous systems.


Draper has designed and developed microelectronic components and systems going back to the mid-1980s. Our integrated, ultra-high density (iUHD) modules of heterogeneous components feature system functionality in the smallest form factor possible through integration of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology with Draper-developed custom packaging and interconnect technology. Draper continues to pioneer custom Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS), Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) and custom radio frequency components for both commercial (microfluidic platforms organ assist, drug development, etc.) and government (miniaturized data collection, new sensors, Micro-sats, etc.) applications.  Draper features a complete in-house iUHD and MEMS fabrication capability and has existing relationships with many other MEMS and microelectronics fabrication facilities. 

Fault-Tolerant Systems

Draper has developed mission-critical fault-tolerant systems for more than four decades. These systems are deployed in space, air, and undersea platforms that require extremely high reliability to accomplish challenging missions. These solutions incorporate robust hardware and software partitioning to achieve fault detection, identification and reconfiguration. Physical redundancy or multiple, identical designs protect against random hardware failures and employ rigor in evaluating differences in computed results to achieve exact consensus, even in the presence of faults. The latest designs leverage cost-effective, multicore commercial processors to implement software-based redundancy management systems in compact single-board layouts that perform the key timing, communication, synchronization and voting algorithm functions needed to maintain seamless operation after one, two or three arbitrary faults of individual components.

Secure & Assured Systems

Over the past 10 years, Draper has extracted miniature systems and real-time embedded systems design knowledge to develop cyber capabilities to assess software vulnerabilities and capabilities to secure electronics systems. Additionally, Draper has demonstrated secure networks featuring over-the-air keying to realize cryptographically encoded, high-bandwidth communications for UAVs and other applications. These complementary capabilities and technologies provide robust security solutions to guard critical embedded systems against cyber, reverse engineering, and other attacks and ensure that critical information can be protected and delivered in a timely and accurate manner.

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