Elon Musk is not the only one investing in SpaceTech. Many startups are also very interested in it. Signs of this breakthrough: In France, around 35 startups between the beginning of 2018 and the end of 2020 raised a total of 260 million euros, according to calculations by the National Center for Space Studies (CNES). It must be said that the sector has something to make entrepreneurs dream of. Space is, in fact, the cause of multiple solutions and the ability to respond to issues raised by areas as diverse as agriculture, transportation, or insurance. So inevitably, the promises of the sector have been able to seduce more than one.
Yana Karol, scientific director at GRASP, a SpaceTech startup, knows this better than anyone else. On March 17, 2022, at the FutureProof Summit – a EuraTechnologies event whose first edition was dedicated to technological sovereignty – the researcher did not hesitate to hammer it home in front of the assembly: the space is a great way to learn more. about our world. It is good that the democratization of SpaceTech is underway. “Space is no longer just for large space agencies. If you want to get there, it is now very possible. Technologies are evolving super fast and getting cheaper and cheaper. And space agencies have every interest in collaborating with the private sector on these new space missions.” To find out more, Madness spoke with Yana Karol, who shared her vision of the future of space.
Madness. Historically,‘space was NASA’s monopoly, the‘the European Space Agency (ESA) … From now on, startups n‘more reluctant to invest in SpaceTech. What‘what explains this democratization?
Yana Karl. This democratization is mainly associated with the development of technologies and their miniaturization. Satellites have become much smaller and cheaper. This revolution is similar to the computer: The first – ENIAC – measured 72m2, whereas today a smartphone fits in your pocket and is much smarter. This is the same phenomenon that occurred with the equipment sent out into space.
And Space X, the‘business of‘Elon Musk, in all this? What role did she play?
It is certain that Space X has helped to democratize space. Elon Musk led by example, proving that anything was possible, even for someone who did not come from NASA. It has shown that it is capable of developing equipment intended for space. He wanted to develop launchers for space and took up the challenge brilliantly. Its success inevitably attracted investors. It turned out that the room was less risky than we thought. Spire Global, a company that manufactures nanosatellites and analyzes their data, has seen its revenue increase 70 times over the last four years and now operates more than 100 satellites. The growth of SpaceTech companies is significant.
What obstacle do you encounter as‘SpaceTech player?
Downloading data from space is still complicated even today. We are still trying to figure out how to cross borders. Several means are used today to achieve this: for example, the X-band (a range of radio wave frequencies, used for radars, telecommunications and radio, ed.note)which were previously reserved for military applications and are now increasingly used for civilian satellites.
What‘do you offer at GRASP?
At GRASP, we specialize in the development of algorithms and the processing of remote sensing data (all the processes and techniques that make it possible to remotely obtain information about terrestrial objects, from the radiation they emit or reflect, Editor’s note). Specifically, we work with missions in the public space that leave us with their data, which we will collect and then analyze. This is especially the case with the “Copernicus” mission from the European Space Agency (ESA), which, among other things, aims to characterize the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface. We are also in the process of launching our own constellation of nanosatellites to determine air quality globally. These data are useful for various actors: research agencies and universities, authorities (cities, regions, etc.) that make regulations, but also polluting industries that have to monitor the quality of the air around their factories. In addition, we can use our data and algorithms to make atmospheric corrections for any other Earth observation.
Basically, what is‘SpaceTech’s ambition?
Whatever one may say, even though space is 600 kilometers from us, it is capable of affecting all areas of our lives. For example, SpaceTech can help us respond to the problems caused by climate change. But to solve them, you must first know the world you live in. It will be necessary to observe very closely the pollution, the variations of the climate … And space is a key to understanding all these phenomena. For very practical questions, it will also be very helpful. Take the example of agriculture. Thanks to all the technologies used in circuits for agricultural purposes, we are able to determine when it is wise to water the crops, start the harvest or not … In the same way, SpaceTech gives us indications of the oceans, the best places to fishing and the best places to preserve. I firmly believe that we will not recognize our world in ten years. We first witnessed a revolution with the democratization of the computer, then the Internet and then the smartphone. Today, we can not imagine living without a smartphone. Tomorrow it will be the same with satellite technologies sent into space.
We are also talking more and more about space tourism. What‘do you think ? Shall we see this‘a good eye?
And why not? Space tourism can be a good revolution. Even though I personally have no desire to set foot there (laughs). On the other hand, it is space waste that must be monitored with this democratization of space. There are technologies to monitor them first and then capture them because space pollution is a reality.
Is there a risk that the actors are numerous in‘space ?
We must not lie, there is a risk of accidents associated with the launch of satellites. But I want to tell this anecdote: In 1908, the Italian writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti pushes the engine of his car to the maximum and comes across an accident. He came out of it slightly injured, but above all, this accident completely changed his view of reality and the future. He will write it The manifesto of Futurism, a text in which he announces that time is by machine and speed. For my part, I am optimistic about the future of space. Of course, there will be accidents, problems, but we will always find solutions, as we do on Earth. This is ultimately progress!
Maddyness, media partner for EuraTechnologies