The NewSpace Business Plan competition is a project of the Space Frontier Foundation. It is the world’s first professional business plan competition that focuses specifically on the new, up-and-coming and the expanding new space industry. The event was held on October 24th at Stanford University, and was judged by a panel of five venture capitalists with over 25 years of collective investment and business development experience.
“This event provided an excellent opportunity for us all to learn more about the economic dynamics of the American emerging space ecosystem,” said Alex MacDonald, Program Executive for NASA’s Emerging Space Office, “and this event also hopefully helped to nucleate a few more great American space companies.”
The competition’s goal is to assist and showcase new start-up companies as well as expanding firms. These contestants must be able to demonstrate both the ability to provide a return on investment, and be able to demonstrate the capacity to actually contribute something to capitalize on the new space frontier.
The winner of the competition this year was Generation Orbit Launch Services, gaining them the $100,000 first place prize. The Atlanta-based company is developing an air-launched rocket system to serve the micro and nanosat market.
ELIGOS Inc. earned second place in the competition, along with the $25,000 prize. ELIGOS has developed a new type of electric space propulsion unit with the goal of powerful, efficient electric space propulsion for all space propulsion needs which is focused on the lucrative satellite orbit raising and maneuvering market.
Raptor Space Services was awarded 3rd place, and a $10,000 award. Raptor, which is wholly owned by a subsidiary of Skycorp incorporated, has been formed to address the demand for the cost effective orbital transfer of cubesats from the International Space Station (ISS) to more desirable orbits. The Raptor solar electric propulsion spacecraft can carry 50 cubesats for deployment to higher orbits and inclinations in early 2016. Two vehicles, for 100 cubesats, will be built.
A $5,000 market sector award for the best entry in the area of on-orbit servicing was given to a company called Prospect Dynamics, which wasn’t even a finalist in the competition. According to the company’s website, “Prospect Dynamics is a new breed of commercial aerospace supplier demanded by the radical shift unfolding in the industry. We are developing the core technologies to enable space mining, space debris removal and the myriad related applications.”
In 2011 there were about 26 entries, and five of them went on to be finalists. Last year the entries doubled, producing ten finalists. This year there were a total of 45 entries that were painstakingly narrowed down to just eight finalists. The judges of the competition, as well as most of the people in attendance, deemed that most if not all of the companies that got to present were indeed capable of funding and worthy of some funding to move their businesses to success.
“I’m excited to see the steadily increasing level of professionalism and innovative ideas of this year’s contestants, and look forward to following their success,” said Eva-Jane Lark, a competition judge and vice-president of the BMO Nesbitt Burns investment firm in Canada. “It’s great to see more investors attending and becoming aware of the NewSpace Business Plan Competition and this emerging NewSpace industry.”
The competitors produced a wide range of exciting and intriguing proposals, in the areas of on-orbit servicing, nano-tech, biotech and even exotic new software solutions. There were many proposals that are space-scalable, which is a service or product that are very profitable here on earth and can be adapted to solve problems when the need arises in space.
One of the major technologies currently being talked about and is growing rapidly in popularity is 3D printing. Made in Space is a company that is currently customizing a 3D printer for use on the International Space Station, which will give them the capability to make their own spare parts in space. The possibilities for technology like this is endless.
This is the second year in a row that the Emerging Space Portal at NASA Ames has provided the first place prize of $100,000. This year also marked the competition’s first corporate sponsor as well, ATK, which has been a NASA and military contractor for several years. ATK provided the second-place prize of $25,000 as well as providing a $5,000 market sector prize for the best entry in the field of on-orbit servicing, which is a new area everyone is watching closely.